If you need any indication of what Tina Turner, who has died at the age of 83 in her adopted home of Switzerland, could do to and for a song, listen to the first recording of “What’s Love Got To Do With It?“. Cut a month or so before Turner’s version by British Eurovision winners Bucks Fizz, it was not issued for decades. By the most charitable estimation, it could be called agreeably kitsch and utterly forgettable.
Now listen to her version. Hear how much more desire and substance the song has, how much more life and fuel. It also may occur to you that the production is just as trapped in 1980s pop flourishes (that synth harmonica…) and that the category difference is almost entirely down to that voice.
It is remarkable to consider the breadth of work that bears her name: the filthy RnB of “A Fool in Love“; the almost impossible-to-categorise “River Deep, Mountain High“; the stomping country soul of her criminally underrated solo debut, Tina Turns the Country On!; ’80s torch songs like “We Don’t Need Another Hero“; the Bond theme “Goldeneye“. All belong to completely different aesthetic universes, and yet all could only be by Tina Turner, all united by that snarling contralto, a raw, husky mixture of desire and frustration, strength and suffering.
Read more about the life of the late Tina Turner.
Become a subscriber to get full access to the website, as well as our premium newsletters.
Already a subscriber? Log in to keep reading.