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March 2017

Tina the Great

Our March Icon, Tina Turner, is a soul survivor like no other.

When she stepped to the front of her soon-to-be husband Ike Turner’s band in the early 1960s, Tina quickly displayed singing and dancing skills that made her a rival to the great James Brown. You can see that in this 1965 television performance, which features a medley of two major Ike & Tina hits, “A Fool in Love” and “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine.”

By 1971, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue was at the top of its game, and in this clip from that year—performed on the German TV program Beat Club—they tear through the number for which they’re still best known today, a drastically rearranged version of John Fogerty’s “Proud Mary” (originally recorded by Fogerty’s band Creedence Clearwater Revival). The “psychedelic” backdrop and frenzied jump cuts are both eye-catching and of their time, while Ike earns some attention for his sizable Afro, lowdown voice, and spirited guitar playing. But from the start, there’s no doubt that Tina is the star of this show.

Tina’s last major hit before splitting up with Ike was 1973’s hard-rocking “Nutbush City Limits,” about her Tennessee hometown. Unusually, she wrote the song herself—with some uncredited musical help from her husband. This performance from another German TV show, Musikladen, is a prime example of her distinctive vocal rasp and amazing onstage energy.

Out of Ike’s shadow for good, Tina made a huge critical and commercial comeback with her 1984 album Private Dancer. Seven of the album’s 10 songs were released as singles, and all became hits. You can check out one of the biggest, “Better Be Good to Me,” below. The music and video production styles captured here are quite dated—to say nothing of the fashion choices—but the intensity of Tina’s singing is undimmed by time.

Private Dancer marked the start of a nearly 20-year period during which Tina Turner established herself as an elder stateswoman of rock and a global superstar. Here she is onstage in 1994, singing one of the definitive songs both of that era and of her extraordinary career: “(Simply) The Best.”

Want more Tina? Check out our Hear the Music playlist for March.