The Vault of Soul: Tina Turner

Tina Turner, Vault of Soul
Graphics by Maeve Huttner

By Erin Norton, Membership Assistant

 In celebration of Black History Month, we are excited to bring back our Vault of Soul series. Step inside the vault to discover the life and legacy of some of the world's greatest soul artists, both past and present. Continue reading to take a deep dive into the incredible life and career of “The Queen of Rock ‘n Roll,” Tina Turner. Plus, be sure to tune in and catch a special set featuring this week’s Vault of Soul entry at midnight on The Secret Spot

 

BIOGRAPHY

EARLY LIFE

Tina Turner, whose full name is Anna Mae Bullock, was born on November 26th, 1939 in Brownsville, Tennessee. Turner dealt with a significant deal of loss growing up. Her mother ran away without any notice in order to escape her abusive husband. As a result, Turner and her sisters were sent to live with their grandmother. When she was a teenager, she learned that one of her sisters and two of her cousins passed away in a car crash. Later in her teenage years, her grandmother also passed away, which resulted in her living with her mother once again, who was in St. Louis at the time. 

While in St. Louis with her mother, she began to find a home in the R&B scene. Turner and her sister would frequent the nightclubs in St. Louis. She met her future husband, Ike Turner at the Manhattan Club. There, he would perform with his band, Kings of Rhythm, and Turner really wanted to be a new addition to the group. When the group, including the audience at the Manhattan Club, heard her sing for the first time, she became not just a fan favorite, but a permanent member of the group. Turner’s name was essentially made for her by Ike when he was told that she should be made the star of the group. He named her Tina because it rhymed with “Sheena,” one of his personal inspirations. Then he gave her his last name for the sake of replaceability just in case she left the group like many previous singers.

 

RISE TO FAME

In 1960, Tina Turner released “A Fool in Love,” a single that immediately reached No. 2 in the Hot R&B Sides charts and No. 27 on the Billboard Top 100. After this release, both Tina and Ike continued growing in their careers. Between 1963-1965, they were touring this single as well as other successful songs. Soon after, they signed onto Philles Records label and under it, they released “River Deep — Mountain High.” This song became incredibly popular everywhere, which led to Rolling Stone UK offering Ike and Tina a place on their tour. Turner’s impact is even more significant because she became the first woman and black person to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Tina and Ike’s fame continued to grow, especially after the release of “I Want to Take You Higher,” a cover of a Sly and the Family Stone’s song. All of this success also led to Turner being forever known as the “Queen of Rock n’ Roll.” 

In the Mid 1970s, Ike Turner became heavily addicted to cocaine, which severely impacted his relationship with Tina. Due to this strain, there was a physical altercation between the two and Turner fled. She went to live with a friend and during that time she filed divorce papers. Even throughout this rough time, she continued to tour and share her music with fans. From that time onwards, she began to pursue a solo career, which became wildly successful. She even went on to be inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame as a duo act with Ike, although she declined attendance  for the sake of her emotional well-being. Even after this massive achievement, she continued to partake in many more remarkable opportunities.

 

LATER LIFE

More recently, Turner’s album All The Best from 2004 went platinum only 3 months after its initial release. In 2008 she made a public comeback at the Grammy Awards alongside Beyoncé and also began her first tour after 10 years. While she was touring, she released a greatest hits compilation of all of her music. In 2021, Turner was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame once again, finally as a solo artist. 

 

WHO INFLUENCED TINA TURNER?

Mahalia Jackson was a massive influence on Turner. She was also a very influential woman in the music industry at the time, so it makes sense that Turner would follow in her footsteps and pave the path even further. The same can be said about other similar artists such as Ray Charles and Big Mama Thornton.

 

WHO DID TINA TURNER INFLUENCE?

Tina Turner continues to inspire so many artists due to her incredible career. Beyoncé, specifically, has always been upfront about how much of an inspiration Tina Turner is to her. Turner’s influence is very much apparent in Beyoncé’s performances, stage presence, and the overall powerful energy about her. 

Janis Joplin was also heavily influenced by Tina Turner. She was always a longtime fan and would even go see Ike and Tina perform. The way that Joplin sang was also very much inspired by Turner’s voice. 

 

HONORS AND AWARDS WON

  • Favorite Soul/R&B Female Video Artist (American Music Awards, 1985)
  • Favorite Female Artist Soul/R&B (American Music Awards, 1985)
  • Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (Grammys, 1985)
  • Record of the Year (Grammys, 1985)
  • Best Female Video (MTV Video Music Awards, 1985)
  • Favorite Female Artist Pop/Rock (American Music Awards, 1986)
  • Best Female Rock Vocal Performance (Grammys; 1989, 1987, 1986)
  • Best Stage Performance in a Video (MTV Video Music Awards, 1986)
  • Inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame (1991, 2021)
  • Kennedy Center Honors (2005)
  • Album of the Year (Grammys, 2008)
  • Inducted into the Grammys Hall of Fame (2012)

 

SPOTLIGHT TRACKS

“WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?” (1984)

“What’s Love Got to Do With It?” is Tina Turner’s most well-known song by far. She won several Grammy Awards and other honors for its recording. Many consider it as her comeback song. This track helped significantly boost her solo career and it landed her in the charts almost immediately, setting several records. She was the oldest female solo artist to top the charts. She also set the longest time between a first song to chart and an initial #1 hit — the difference was 24 years. To this day, this song is still iconic and an absolute classic. 

 

“RIVER DEEP — MOUNTAIN HIGH” (1966)

This song about pure devotion is one of those tunes that everyone simply knows all the words to. This song, even though it was written for the Ike & Tina duo, was written specifically for Tina to sing. Producer Phil Spector made sure that the music allowed for Turner’s powerhouse vocals to cut through the music so beautifully and powerfully. This song initially didn’t do so well in the US, but it was well known abroad. However, over the years, the song began to gain the popularity that we all know it to have today.

 

“THE BEST” (1989)

Known as a signature Tina Turner song, it’s known as yet another comeback song for her. This song was fairly heavily commercialized. As a promotion for her Foreign Affair Tour, Turner sang this song in a Pepsi commercial that was aired internationally. Other brands that used this song are T-Mobile and Applebees. Needless to say, this is another one of her incredible international hits that she will forever be remembered by. 

 

You can revisit past Vault of Soul articles here, featuring artists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and more. 

Interested in exploring the soul genre beyond the vault? Be sure to tune into 88.9 every night between 10 pm and 2 am for The Secret Spot. Let host D Danubian wind you up and simmer you down with a blend of R&B, soul, and slow jams.

Also, be sure to check out ERS+, our new HD radio experience. Take a deep dive into R&B and hip-hop with the legendary voices of soul alongside new and pioneering MCs. Find ERS+: Boston’s Black Experience online at WERSPlus.Org

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