Artists We Love: Tina Turner

Caught in the Act celebrates Tina who last week, on Nov. 26, 2022, celebrated her 83rd birthday.

When Tina Turner’s solo star finally ascended with the 1984 hit “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” it felt like a victory for anyone who had been hurt or held back in pursuit of a dream.

As her 1986 autobiography, I, Tina, and the 1993 bio-pic What’s Love Got to Do With It revealed the abuse she suffered from ex-husband and musical partner Ike Turner, the celebration of Tina was tempered with the knowledge of the horrors she went through.

Of course, if success is the best revenge, Tina surely finished on top. Her solo albums regularly sold in the millions, she was headlining and selling out arenas, and she was in the highest echelon of music stars, where only one name is necessary (Bruce, Michael, Prince, Madonna).

Tina’s story came to Broadway in 2019 as TINA: The Tina Turner Musical, which comes to the Straz Center in Jan. 31-Feb. 5. Tickets already are on sale. Some might ponder what a musical can add to a story already told in print and on film.

Nkeki Obi-Melekwe & The TINA Band in TINA – Photo by Manuel Harlan, 2021.

Just this: A performance as close to prime-era Tina as you are likely ever to see again — Ms. Turner being quite happily retired now, thank you — in a venue far more intimate than any she’d played since prior to her conquering the world. And that you might want to see.

Turner was a performer first and foremost. Her voice had the texture of an electric guitar or a tenor sax – authoritative, loud, plenty of rough edges – especially her edge-of-a-scream upper register. The routines she performed with backup-singers/dancers The Ikettes were wildly energetic and physically demanding.

Want some visual evidence? Here are a few examples of Tina at her stage-burning best:

  • “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine”: Yes, the title is sadly ironic given how things actually worked out. Yes, it’s both sad and disconcerting to see how playful Ike and Tina are with each other. Regardless, this mid-’60s performance is excellent, with the talents of Tina, Ike and the Ikettes on full display.
  • “Proud Mary”: The most well-known of the Turners’ hits. The one that starts easy and finishes rough. The one with frenzied dancing rarely seen outside a charismatic church service. This early ’70s performance aired on the late-night TV music program The Midnight Special.
  • “Nutbush City Limits”: Tina wasn’t a prolific songwriter but she penned a couple of the last few Ike & Tina hits: “Sexy Ida” and this, a 1974 tribute of sorts to her hometown. Bob Seger used to open his shows with this one. This 1975 performance is from the short-lived variety series Cher.

We’re exhausted after just watching Tina’s performances in the above videos.

Sometimes, in the telling of her story, Tina the performer is overshadowed by Tina the victim and Tina the comeback queen. Tina the performer is the one who made us care about Tina the Person because her music touched us in some way.

The running order of songs in Tina suggests that it takes liberties with the timeline, so don’t be startled if you hear an ’80s hit following some dirty R&B. The good news is there are 20-plus songs used in the show, regardless of the order. That’s a concert’s worth of tunes and it makes us hopeful that TINA celebrates her music at least as much as it does her story.

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