Farewell Tina Turner

Rupert was incredibly proud of his production work with Tina Turner (especially on the grammy award winning “Private Dancer” and the Grammy Award winning song “Better Be Good to Me” – on which he also played keyboards*, bass guitar, percussion, programming and provided backing. He also produced her on the albums “Break Every Rule” and “Foreign Affair”. By all accounts they got on famously and he was so impressed with her ability to take and make a song her own. He used to tell how he would pick her up from her London home in his Lynx Eventer car, pop a cassette of the song they were going to work on in the car’s player and she would sing along; by the time they reached Farmyard Studios in Buckinghamshire it was hers. One take and he would driver her back again. RIP an incredibly talented and eloquent lady. I hope their immense musical energy and spirits will hook up again one day.

From: Bob Lefsetz – USA music industry analyst and critic and author of The Lefsetz Letter, email newsletter and blog
Subject: Tina Turner
Date: 25 May 2023


She was a has-been. And Ike didn’t get any respect either.

This was the sixties. The era of one-hit wonders, the British Invasion and then album rock. Where did Ike and Tina Turner fit in?

They didn’t. They were an inside act. With hits on the R&B charts, but virtually no action on Top Forty, the main career driver of the era. And it’s not like the nascent FM rock was going to play them either. Sure, the deejays had their pick, it was free-form radio, but the acts were all white, except for Jimi Hendrix, and maybe Richie Havens, but they didn’t really play him either, not until after the Woodstock movie.

And then the Stones took Ike & Tina out as the openers on their ’69 tour.

The Stones knew the act, the British acts knew their history, and “River Deep, Mountain High,” was actually a hit across the pond, it went all the way to #3, whereas in America, it peaked at #88. In other words almost no one ever heard it. And this was back in the era when if it wasn’t on the radio you had to buy it to hear it, and people didn’t, buy it that is.

This was going to be the big breakthrough, Phil Spector’s last hurrah, his crowning achievement. It was weird to read the rock press in the late sixties and early seventies because writers always cited the transcendent excellence of “River Deep, Mountain High,” but I never heard it. And I must admit when I ultimately did I didn’t think it was all that.

Most white rock fans knew who Ike & Tina were, but they were perceived to be relics of a bygone era.

And then the “Gimme Shelter” movie played.

You had to see it. Sure, it was ultimately about Altamont, but this was back in the era when you hungered for any scrap of information about your favorite acts, and video footage was hard to come by, and when there was a film, you went to see it. And Tina Turner stole the movie. It was the way she stroked the microphone during “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” we’d never seen anything like it. Sure, back then people had sex, but it was still behind closed doors, underground, you couldn’t Google it. For the rock acts it was a big thing to swear on your record, or stick out the middle finger in a photograph, both of which were ultimately airbrushed by the company when it found out. But something so overtly sexual? It was JAW-DROPPING! Just like James Brown owned the “T.A.M.I. Show,” Tina Turner owned “Gimme Shelter.” At this point everybody could sing, in this era before tapes, hard drives and Auto-Tune. But performing? Tina made the Stones look quaint. She was a bundle of energy. But she could go nice and slow too. She was an adult when her competitors were children. You were instantly hipped, you knew who Tina Turner was.

And Ike was in the background. I mean he played guitar, so what? It took years to find out he arguably created the first rock and roll record. His accomplishments are still overshadowed by the abuse. But Tina was the star. Yet she could never create a solo hit.

But before that, running on the momentum of the Stones tour and the ultimate movie, Ike & Tina had success with a cover of “Proud Mary.” But this was not long after the iconic Creedence Clearwater version. Forget the statistics, people were aware of Ike & Tina’s version of “Proud Mary,” but it wasn’t ubiquitous. And unlike Marvin Gaye’s reimagining of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ hit “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” the Ike & Tina cover of “Proud Mary” was not radically different. It looked like Ike & Tina couldn’t write their own hit, which was the key to credibility and longevity back then. Furthermore, “Proud Mary” was heard on AM in an era when most rock fans had moved on to FM. Oh, you’d see Tina performing “Proud Mary,” you’d get it, but the average rock fan thought the act was running on fumes.

And then in 1976 Tina left Ike. This was a big story. Covered at length not in the gossip pages, but the music magazines. She was rebirthed. In the wake of her sensational appearance in the “Tommy” movie as the Acid Queen in 1975.

And then…nothing.

Now you’ve got to know, eras went by. Corporate rock, disco, the reign of Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” Steve Dahl blew up disco records in Comiskey Park and not only did it put a dent in that format, but the entire business.

And then came MTV.

At first very few people could see it. And the acts featured were all white. The brass famously said MTV was programmed like an AOR radio station, and those were all white. Ultimately Walter Yetnikoff forced the crossing of the color line by insisting they play Michael Jackson, saying if they didn’t he would pull all the company’s videos, but…

Tina Turner had nothing to do with all this. She released solo records that sank immediately. She was the aforementioned has-been.

And then along came John Carter.


Carter, he’s gone now too. He passed in 2011.

Carter worked at Capitol, a lame record company. Of course they had the Beatles and the Beach Boys and the Band, but as soon as all those acts were out of contract, they bolted. Ultimately after going to Warner Brothers and then coming back to Capitol, Bob Seger had success, he broke through with a live album, but you didn’t want to be on Capitol, better than to have no deal, but even RCA could have hits, with David Bowie and Hall & Oates. MCA was pretty lame. It got to the point where you could only consider it a major based on Elton John and its catalog, corporate refused to spend any money, ultimately bringing Irving Azoff in to resuscitate the label essentially from scratch. But Capitol was trying. And constantly failing.

Of course there was the Knack, but they ended up being one-hit wonders.

As for John Carter? He was a meat and potatoes guy, he signed and produced Sammy Hagar, who made some really good albums after playing with Montrose, but Sammy didn’t get big until he decamped to Geffen.

Not that this affected Carter’s self-worth. At times he could let his guard down and be fun, act like your equal, but usually he acted superior. You didn’t want to hang with him, but it didn’t really matter, because he didn’t want to hang with you.

And then he signed Tina Turner.

TINA TURNER? Not only was she history, Carter had no background in Black music, his claim to fame was writing the lyrics for “Incense and Peppermints.”

This was back when you had to have a deal to play. And now six figures were spent on most albums. It was big business. And with MTV…you could be rocketed into the stratosphere, known all around the world. I’d say no one thought fortysomething Tina Turner could be on MTV, but we never ever got that far, because everybody firmly believed this was a folly, she’d had her shot, she was done.

And the album took YEARS to make. Carter kept talking about it and you’d roll your eyes, you thought it would never come out.

And then it did.


“You must understand how the touch of your hand
Makes my pulse react”

There she was, on MTV. In that jean jacket and a rooster haircut that put Rod Stewart’s to shame. Tina didn’t look old, she looked wise, experienced, a step above the girls featured on the channel. Furthermore, Tina was SEXY! She was not only comfortable in her body, she knew how to use it. She was beyond charismatic, she was magnetic and knew it.

And we were floored.


As a result of the “I Want My MTV” campaign and the ability of the channel to make hits, with Culture Club, Duran Duran and then Michael Jackson, MTV WAS culture. To the point where every act had a video, they wanted a chance to play the lottery, to win big.

Not only kids were tuned in, but adults too. It was the new thing. You think AI is a big deal? MTV was far beyond that. The only thing that has equaled it since is the internet, which ultimately killed it.

But for a good ten years there, closer to twenty, MTV was it. It not only made songs hits, it made the singers of those songs stars, on a level far beyond today. And it changed fashion. It was the Kardashians on steroids. You’d go to the mall and see a zillion Pat Benatars.

But Tina Turner was something else. She was confident. She didn’t seem to need it, and therefore she became an even bigger star.

But it wasn’t only that one track. “What’s Love Got To Do With It” was followed up by the energetic “Better Be Good To Me.” If you hadn’t purchased the album “Private Dancer” by then, you were now incentivized. Obviously it had depth.

“What’s Love Got To Do With It” isn’t so easy to explain, its rhythms and chorus were not conventional, which drew you to it. But “Better Be Good To Me” was more traditional, it may have started out somewhat slow but then it started to march, you were pulled right in, you were hooked, and then came the chorus…

“Why can’t you be, good to me”

It wasn’t like “Better Be Good To Me” was a new song, the Holly Knight/Mike Chapman composition* had been on Knight’s group Spider’s debut back in ’81, but went unheard. And you can listen to the original online, but Tina turned the song into a classic, she not only turned up all the faders on the board, she turned up all the faders inside herself! (*nb produced by Rupert HIne)

She was right in your face. Overwhelmingly. Tina was employing all the talents she had displayed for decades, but now she had the right vehicle and people were primed, they were paying attention.

“‘Cause I don’t have no use
For what you loosely call the truth
And I don’t have the time
For your overloaded lines
So you’d better be good to me”

Talk about girl power. This was beyond Gloria Steinem and “Ms.” magazine. Turner took the concept and ran with it. She embodied liberation. She was free of Ike and she rose from near-obscurity to dominate this new paragon MTV.

You’d be driving in your car and you couldn’t help sing along.

And MTV had changed the radio landscape. AOR was eclipsed by new Top Forty stations on FM, playing the hits that were on the TV channel.

But wait, THERE’S MORE! Next Tina quieted down and delivered the subtle, haunting “Private Dancer.” She was a triple-threat, she could do it all.

They don’t make albums like “Private Dancer” anymore, that everyone knows, EVERYONE! Not only her name, but the tracks, Tina was ubiquitous, worldwide royalty, because that was the reach of MTV.

This was her moment.


And having succeeded in the rock world, Tina dove deeper. She did a duet with the white hot Bryan Adams on “It’s Only Love,” the two of them emoting with all their powers, but as good as Bryan’s throaty voice is, Tina came in and put the track over the top, sprinkled her magic, pouring lighter fluid on an already burgeoning fire. This wasn’t a cash-in, this delivered. Listen to it today, with the slicing guitar riff and the exclaiming vocals…they don’t even make rock music like this anymore, never mind what’s in the Spotify Top 50.

And this was back when movies still meant something.

“Mad Max” was a cult favorite. But “Mad Max 2” in 1981 was a phenomenon. The audience was waiting with bated breath for another installment. And it got one in 1985, with “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.” But in this case the pre-controversy Mel Gibson was not the only star, Tina Turner did not just do a cameo, she had a full role, and sang the theme song to boot, “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” which transcended the usual soundtrack schmaltz yet still sounded like it was movie music. And when you listened to it, you felt powerful. Still do.

“Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” was a gargantuan hit, everyone saw it, it was part of the culture.

As was Ms. Turner. She was a cut above all the rest, she was the best. And unlike today, she never boasted, finally her talent was enough, people got it. Willie Nelson and Tina Turner, two people who’d been working in the trenches for decades who ultimately broke through. But Tina was even bigger than Willie, there was no one bigger than Tina, never mind that big. And since she cut across generations, and musical styles, when she went on tour it was an event, and it wasn’t about production, it was about HER!


And then Tina retired. She told us, but we didn’t believe it. Starting with Frank Sinatra, our modern stars never do call it a day. Even after signing a retirement document in blood. They can’t get that hit of adrenaline, that jolt, that love that they get on stage anywhere else.

But Tina Turner retreated to Switzerland and…

Really retired. Not forgotten, but not in view.

It wasn’t until today that we were fully aware of all her health problems. To us it looked like she’d taken her victory lap and gone out on top. Needed no more.

Now I can’t speak for the younger generations, the millennials, their younger brethren, but if you were alive and conscious in the twentieth century you’re not only aware of Tina Turner, you know her, AND ABOUT HER! Yes, when Tina came back, so did her complete history, the records, Ike, she’d paid her dues, far more than 10,000 hours, the artifacts were all there, and through the magic of the internet are now available to all 24/7.

Tina became even more than her success. She represented persistence. And she showed you could leave an abusive husband and thrive.

Yet she stayed the same.

There was so much information at this point, so many clips, so many articles, that it was ultimately revealed that Tina Turner was quite normal. Not living an extravagant life, buying ten houses and twenty cars, she wasn’t drunk in public, but when she was on stage…

She came alive.

She could do it. Tina Turner had it.

And we all knew it.

And still do.

She’s gone, but we still remember her impact, her talent.

She was good to us.

We were in thrall to her.

She was our public dancer. All the way from Nutbush.

You didn’t feel like her best friend, but you knew her. Which is one of the reasons her death is so devastating. She didn’t O.D., she lived on, she did it, she entertained us. And so far no one has come along to challenge her.

She was just that good.