The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #188: What’s Love Got To Do With It? by Tina Turner (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song and going until I reach Song . When you see the song title listed as something like: Song (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #188: What’s Love Got To Do With It? by Tina Turner.

***As always, with the subject matter of a post like this, I will leave it to your discretion as to whether you read this or not. It is impossible to talk about Tina Turner’s life story without talking a bit about her time spent with her ex-husband, Ike Turner and all that happened during their time together. Be gentle with yourself if you think you will find this painful.

Tina Turner was born in 1939, which makes her almost as old as my own mother. She was born in Tennessee as Anna Mae Bullock.

Tina Turner first met Ike Turner when she was just finishing high school. He was travelling around the country with a band called “Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm”. Tina began to date the drummer of the band and ended up having a child with him. He eventually left the band but, before leaving, Tina used her access to the band to “audition” for Ike. He never believed that a woman could or should be the face of a band and, certainly not one that bore his name. But, once he heard Tina sing, he hired her to be part of his band. For awhile, their relationship was platonic and rooted in the business of making the band a success. But, eventually, their relationship became sexual and they were married in Tijuana, Mexico. Ike was a very controlling man and had strict views on what he defined as a “woman’s place” in a family. He was physically abusive and controlling right from the outset of the marriage. Not only that but, he engaged in much emotional abuse, too. He constantly stated that he was the sole reason that Tina had a career and that she would quickly turn into a “nothing” without his presence and guidance. As well, Ike Turner was good friends with producer, Phil Spector who, as we know, was abusing his wife, Ronnie Spector, all through their marriage, too. In a supportive manner, Phil Spector echoed Ike’s contention that “any woman could have been his “Tina”. Whenever Tina Turner was up for an award for her solo career or as part of the “Ike and Tina Turner Revue”, Phil Spector campaigned against her.

Eventually, Tina Turner managed to get away from Ike, which mustn’t have been an easy thing for her to do. In her divorce, she escaped with the rights to her stage name……which is what “Tina Turner” actually is (she is Anna Mae Bullock, in reality). When she tried to record/release some albums on her own, it seemed as though Ike might have been correct all along because, her initial solo offerings flopped. But, newly emancipated, Tina Turner began branching out into acting (“Tommy” on Broadway) and making guest appearances with others on concert tours (such as opening for Lionel Ritchie in the early 1980s). But, it was a song called, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” from an album called, “Private Dancer” that really brought Tina Turner back into the public eye and helped launch her into the realm of superstardom.

The song, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” was written by two men, Terry Britten and Graham Lyle. It was written for singer, Cliff Richard to sing but, he turned it down. The song was offered to several other singers, including, Donna Summer, before it ever made its way to Turner. Initially, she balked at singing the song, too, because it is really an anti-love song. “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” is a song about having a non-committed relationship based upon sexual desire only. No strings attached. That went against Turner’s emerging Buddhist philosophies. But, her manager convinced her that she could make this song “her own” so, Tina Turner took the song home, practised it until it felt like she could inhabit the character singing the song and then, like the experienced actress she was becoming, she recorded the song in the guise of a sexual temptress. The official music video, which saw Turner don a short leather skirt and walk confidently down the streets of New York, struck a chord with her audience. This song (and the album it came from) went on to win the Grammy Awards for “Song of the Year”, “Album of the Year” and “Best Vocal Performance by a Female”. “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” went to on the charts (Making Turner the oldest female solo artist to ever to reach for the first time.) The album sold in the tens of millions worldwide and, for her solo career, Tina Turner has sold in excess of 100 million albums, making her one of the biggest selling solo artists of all-time.

Because of the fortitude she showed in surviving the first half of her life/career, Turner has gone on to become one of the most respected and admired performers of our generation. As anyone who has found themselves in the position she was with Ike, it is difficult to survive, let alone, to thrive. Tina Turner did that and then some! When Ike Turner passed away a few years back, Tina was asked to comment by reporters but, as is befitting her character, Turner simply smiled, offered a “No comment” and quietly walked away, going back to the life that she now happily inhabits.

Sometimes, in this countdown, we learn about songs that possesses technical brilliance or that were innovative and paved the way for new genres of music to be born. Sometimes, the lyrics speak to a historical event (as we just saw with “Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley and the Wailers). But, sometimes, the song, itself, doesn’t matter that much. Instead, it is the story behind what that song represents to the singer that matters. In the case of “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”, we all recognized what the success of that song meant to Tina Turner….in her career, as well as, in her life. Success for her meant that success for other women who find themselves trapped in abusive relationships might be possible for them, too. In short, the correct measure of “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” is that it is a symbol of Hope. And, as we all know, Hope is a powerful, powerful thing!

Congratulations to Tina Turner on the success she has enjoyed in her career and for the happiness she enjoys in her life. She has most-definitely earned it all. Here is the song that opened the door for her, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” from the album, “Private Dancer”. Enjoy. Applaud even, if you feel so moved.

The link to the video for the song, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” by Tina Turner, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Tina Turner, can be found here.

The link to the video for the trailer for the movie, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”, can be found here.

The link to the video for the trailer for the documentary about her life, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

2 thoughts on “The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #188: What’s Love Got To Do With It? by Tina Turner (RS)”

  1. Tina Turner was an amazing performer. I feel fortunate to have seen her twice.

    My first concert in April 1987 in Dortmund, Germany was actually recorded, and some of the material was used for for the “Tina Live in Europe” album, released in June 1989 – true story!

    I saw Tina for a second time on Long Island, New York in 1993.

    Unfortunately, she’s battled some health issues in recent years, which sadly prevented her from attending her second induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year.

    1. Lucky you! She lived quite the life and translated that experience into being quite the live performer. She was very much the real deal. Thanks for stopping by with your comment. It is appreciated. Have a great day. 😀

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