In the wake of divorce, debt and dismal record sales, Tina Turner came up with a sensational comeback. At 45-years-old, an age when most pop singers’ careers are fading, Turner’s album Private Dancer, delivered her from commercial purgatory to become the singer’s biggest success.
Born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee, she began recording with Ike Turner’s Kings Of Rhythm, later marrying Ike Turner and adopting the stage name Tina. They had six Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including a Grammy-winning cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary, which reached Number Four in 1971.
Behind the facade of the couple’s success, Ike was violently abusing Tina. She walked away in 1976, carrying only a Mobil credit card and 36 cents. They divorced two years later.
Freed from her marriage, Turner struggled professionally, playing small cabaret shows to settle debts while two solo albums fizzled. Her fortune changed when Olivia Newton-John invited Turner to appear on her 1979 television special, Olivia!. That appearance led to Turner meeting Roger Davies, who became her manager. He flew with Turner to England to work on Private Dancer, her debut on her new label Capitol Records.
Private Dancer brought Turner five solo Top 40 hits, including her first Number One, What’s Love Got To Do With It. The hits pushed Private Dancer to Number Three in November 1984, with an astonishing 39-week run in the Top 10. Following Private Dancer, Turner had fourteen more hits on the Hot 100 through 1996.
It is her best-selling album both in the USA and internationally and it made her globally famous. It had with four different production teams including Ian Craig Marsh of the New Wave band Heaven 17.
The album produced seven singles. Besides What’s Love Got To Do With It, there was also Better Be Good To Me, Private Dancer, and a cover of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together. Positively received by critics, Turner’s ability to give energy and raw emotion to slickly produced professional pop/rock songs softened her raw Southern Soul style. The album proved to be a landmark in Pop-Soul music.
The album was promoted throughout 1985 with a 177-date worldwide tour called the The Private Dancer Tour.
Private Dancer sold more than six million copies in the USA, around 250,000 each week for two months. Worldwide the album has sold over 25 million copies.
At the 1985 Grammy Awards, Private Dancer won four of the six awards for which it was nominated: Best Music Video, Best Video Long Form, Record Of The Year for What’s Love Got To Do With It, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female; and Best Rock Vocal Performance.
In Robert Dimery’s book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, he writes that the album’s lyrical themes embodied her persona of a “tough, sexy woman schooled in a tough world”. The album is ranked Number 46 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of The 100 Greatest Albums.
Private Dancer established Turner not only as a genuine Diva, but a Gay Icon and bona fide force of nature.
On December 12, 2007, Ike Turner died from a cocaine overdose.
Turner made another comeback in February 2008 at the Grammy Awards where she performed with Beyoncé. Turner continued recording and touring through 2008. Now she is retired from performing and lives in Switzerland with her husband, German music producer Erwin Bach. She is a vegetarian and a Buddhist. Turner is developing a stage musical about her life, with performances set to begin in London in March 2018.
By the way, today is Turner’s 78th birthday.
“It’s not what happens, but how you deal with it.”