From a broken home, via enslavement to abusive bandleader husband Ike, to late-career vindication, Tina Turner was a fighter with a voice that throbbed with her life force, and carried the struggles and stories of us all. As part of our extended tribute to Turner in the latest issue of MOJO, we’ve picked ten songs that show her genius as one of the all-time greatest interpreters of a song, across R&B, soul, rock and pop…
It’s Gonna Work Out Fine
(Sue Records single, 1961)
Ike and Tina’s debut in the US pop Top 20, its call-and-response rock’n’roll the perfect vehicle for her voice: a combustible mix of church house, gin house, struggle and survival delivered at elephantine volume.
**I Can’t Believe What You Say (For Seeing What You Do)
**(Kent single, 1964)
An original Mod dancer resurrected on the ’80s rare soul scene and still spun today, this compelling 45 is one of several recorded for Kent in the mid ’60s to showcase the wonderful wall-to-wall energy of Tina and The Ikettes’ live show.
River Deep—Mountain High
(Philles single, 1966)
High drama as Tina makes the Phil Spector/Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich song her own, her vocal reined in then let loose over that wall of sound. It provided an early glimpse of Tina sans Ike – Spector paid him to stay away from the studio.
Bold Soul Sister
(Blue Thumb single, 1969)
Out of favour by ’69, Ike & Tina recorded The Hunter for Bob Krasnow’s label. Still overlooked, it’s full of nuggets such as the Staxlike title track and Bold Soul Sister, a black liberation anthem pinned to tough-gal funk.
Up ln Heah
(United Artists single, 1972)
Co-written with songwriter/ producer Leon Ware and issued as a standalone single, this almighty clash of holy roller gospel and midnight funk deserves to be better known. “I always knew about the son of evil,” Tina warns, and she did.
Nutbush City Limits
(United Artists single, 1973)
Tina writes her backstory, with cotton picking, church singing and picnics on Labor Day set to a greasy glam stomp. It gave Ike & Tina their last US Top 20 hit and marked the first steps towards Tina’s solo flight.
Whole Lotta Love
(United Artists single, 1975)
Hard rock as symphonic soul. Solo Tina storms the barricades, remodelling Led Zep’s battering ram with sweeping synth strings and whiplash percussion. Her vocal is majestic, an instrument of liberation and female sexual agency.
Let’s Stay Together
(Capitol single, 1983)
Paired with B.E.F.’s Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, Tina’s career was rejuvenated on this joyous Al Green cover, her quaverto-roar framed in futurist synth-pop, a new form of electronic soul that would serve her well.
(Capitol single, 1984)
The turning point in a career of turning points, Tina delivers her most intimate performance, investing everything in this gut-punching treatise on sexual commodification and proving she didn’t always have to belt it out.
(on Wildest Dreams, Virgin, 1996)
By the mid-’90s, Tina was strictly stadium rock but an out-of-the-blue cover of this Massive Attack classic proved she still had her ear to the ground. Respectful to the original’s uneasy mood, her vocal swoops and soars.
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