Tina Turner is known as the Queen of Rock & Roll, a title she earned not just once but twice. The first time, she rose to fame in the 1960s as part of the duo Ike and Tina Turner, belting out soulful rock songs in a non-stop stage show where she danced the audience into a frenzy. But all of that is backstory to the most successful and triumphant rebirth in the history of rock.
Turner’s early solo work positioned her as a soulful interpreter of country, rock, blues, and disco, but she finally found her voice with 1984’s five-time platinum album Private Dancer, which included seven hit singles. On the haunting title track, Turner croons deep into the microphone, drawing out the words to pull the listener into her story, eventually belting out the final chorus in a dance of emotions. The swinging rhythms of “What’s Love Got to Do With It” won her three Grammy Awards and became a staple on MTV. Her carefully crafted look – leather skirt, jean jacket, and teased hair – connected her more directly to modern rock and the new generation that was watching.
Turner worked hard to reimagine the role of a Black woman in rock & roll – one not relegated to the edges. A string of duets with male artists, including David Bowie and Mick Jagger, positioned her as equal to, and often above, her male counterparts. Turner continued to land hits with “Typical Male,” “The Best,” and “I Don’t Wanna Fight,” and her 1986 autobiography I, Tina – and subsequent biopic – told the story of her career, her past experience with abuse, and her dreams of rock stardom.
Turner continued performing, setting world records for concert attendance and, in 2009, celebrated 50 years in music. Despite retirement, her music and stage performances continue to resonate with countless artists, from Whitney Houston and Beyoncé, to Mariah Carey and Annie Lennox – setting the stage for every strong female performer who followed. Turner embodies the strength that comes from emotional recovery. Her music and life have empowered fans of multiple generations, giving them the courage and spirit to reclaim their own story in their own words. Tina Turner is “simply the best.”
Influences: Ruth Brown, James Brown, Ray Charles
Legacies: Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Mariah Carey
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