My vinyl copy of Tina Turner’s “Whole Lotta Love” is torn up due to incessant use. Ripped cover. Water stains from cocktails dripped on it. But that wax, whose cover art features Miss Tina in a red dress, red heels, that hair following a ‘5″4 inch of Black gold dynamite looking like something serious is about to go down? Folks weren’t ready.
I wasn’t, and played it ad infinitum.
The single always erupted the vibes in a bar setting, on a dance floor with a proper soundsystem, or in a living room session with friends. It’s one of my favorite, sneaky all-timers of a deep cut, next to Sammy Davis Jr’s cover of “Theme From Shaft.” Slap that Led Zep cut on the turntables, and watch everybody get sweaty. The context or placement of the song doesn’t matter. It’s Tina.
After, perhaps, some Matthew “Recloose” Chicoine Detroit techno biz, throwback Gwen Mc Crae “90% of Me Is You” slow jam declarations, AM Gold “Hello It’s Me” Todd Rundgren confections, and even “Hangin Out” by Main Source, some golden age Hip-Hop at it’s finest. Tina without exception wrecked the party, putting that stank on Folk.
It’s a red-light monsta, with weight.
She put the declarative reading of Willie Dixon’s moment, stolen—excuse me, stylistically interpreted—by John Bonham, into an alternate context that no person could deny.
Tina Turner gave that era of British rock ‘n’ roll such a case of imposter syndrome that dem boys, from Jagger on down, had no choice but to gush in her presence.
And they did, for decades.
A rebranding of Led Zeppelin, call it Lead Tina. Shoot, I kept multiple copies of the devastating cover in various locations. Doubles in the bag, one in the collection, and several others hidden in various sections of numerous record stores that, unfortunately, are no longer with us in San Francisco.
Those perfect hair pieces worn as crowns, the rock ‘n’ roll posture, those kinky outfits, and the believable rumor she insured those legs, ooh la la, for a whopping $3.2 million at the peak of her career?
Tina Turner was a high priestess, translating a lyric into a 5k enhancement.
Her “Whole Lotta Love” brought coitus and the blues into a union of sweat and salvation by way of strings and soul. That was just not in Led Zeppelin’s skill set.
Her influence as a generational entertainer can be seen instantly in Beyoncé and many others who followed Turner. She makes her transition as an eternal survivor and an essential jewel stone in the crown of rock ‘n’ roll as we know it.
We honor the legacy of Tina Turner, who passed at the age of 83 last week, with a couple of selections from her six-decade career. Simply the best.
IKE & TINA TURNER, “A FOOL IN LOVE”
Anna Mae Bullock from Nutbush, Tennessee, daughter of sharecroppers, was half of Ike & Tina Turner. She started out her career doing R&B songs in the style of the time. My mother first saw her on Ed Sullivan or a show like it in 1959 on black and white television. She told me, “Even then, I could not take my eyes off Tina. I wondered what was driving her. You could feel the energy.”
TINA TURNER, “RIVER DEEP, MOUNTAIN HIGH”
Tina’s voice was placed in a contemporary context by Phil Spector, who produced his trademark “Wall of Sound” around her vocals. The song didn’t do well in the United States, as Ike was always quick to point out (he wasn’t allowed to attend the recording session with Phil and Tina.) But she recognized her voice in a new presentation, a top of all of the voices, and enjoyed the song, whether it was popular or not. It’s here that a new perspective on performance came into Tina’s view.
IKE & TINA TURNER, “PROUD MARY“
The start of the duo’s goldmine of chart-topping covers of rock and roll bands.
My stepfather saw Tina live in Japan in 1971 while serving in the military. According to him, the audience, which was mostly men, was very emotional. Some people were crying and cheering. “Proud Mary” rocked the house.
TINA TURNER, “WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT“
Making a time jump here. After years of abuse, indentured servitude, and financial theft, Tina left Ike for good. She launched the greatest comeback in music history in the 1980s, beginning with the 1984 multi-platinum album Private Dancer, which included the hit song “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”
This period, the MTV years, is when I first became acquainted with her music and story. In 1985, she won four Grammys, and played Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, from whose soundtrack she had two hits, including “We Don’t Need Another Hero.”
She sings on “We Are The World,” appears with Mick Jagger at Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985, and declined the role of Celie in The Color Purple, stating, “I already lived that story.”
Sail on Tina, sail on …