Tina Turner: 10 simply the best songs and the stories behind them (2023)

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Tina Turner: 10 simply the best songs and the stories behind them (1)Image source, Getty Images

By Ian Youngs & Emma Saunders

BBC News

Tina Turner, who has died at the age of 83, created many classic recordings with her winning combination of R&B, funk, rock and pop, all performed with her distinctive raw vocal power.

The songs trace her story from her unhappy partnership with first husband Ike to her 1980s comeback courtesy of a British synth pop group.

Here's the pick of her most popular and best-loved hits.

1. River Deep, Mountain High (1966)

Tina found success with Ike in 1960, and one of pop music's masterpieces came her way six years later when producer Phil Spector asked to work with her.

Although the song was credited to the duo, Spector didn't want the controlling Ike in the studio, and Tina was happy to work with someone else.

She was astounded to find the producer had assembled a full orchestra and choir to create his famous wall of sound. "I was just a girl from Tennessee who got caught up with Ike and became a singer," she wrote in her autobiography. "Never, ever had I seen anything like this, except in a movie."

The record went to number three in the UK, but it flopped in the US. Radio DJs "said it wasn't 'black' enough to be rhythm and blues, or white enough to be 'pop'," she said.

2. Proud Mary (1971)

Image source, Getty Images

After this song was a hit for Credence Clearwater Revival in 1969, Ike and Tina transformed their unhurried country-rock vibe into an explosive and epic funk ode to freedom.

Starting with her sultry spoken introduction before then bursting into life with her exuberant vocals, this one did make an impression on US music fans. It reached number four in the Billboard chart and won a Grammy Award.

When Beyonce paid tribute to Tina at the 2005 Kennedy Center Honors, this was the song she chose to perform. Three years later, the pair teamed up to sing it as a duet at the Grammy Awards.

(Video) Tina Turner - The Best (Official Music Video)

3. Nutbush City Limits (1973)

Image source, Getty Images

"A church house, gin house/a school house, outhouse" - Tina famously immortalised her Tennessee home town in these lyrics.

The upbeat tune was a nostalgic memory from her disruptive childhood, during which she spent some time picking cotton. "You go to the field on week days/And have a picnic on Labor Day."

Three years after this song came out, Tina left Ike after suffering years of his abuse, leaving her career in the balance.

4. Let's Stay Together (1983)

Image source, ITV/Shutterstock

Tina had to start again and build herself back up as a solo artist. The pivotal moment in that comeback - which would lead to even greater success than before - came when she met two members of English electro-pop group Heaven 17.

Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory were looking for one last singer for an album of cover versions for their British Electric Foundation project, and Tina was without a record deal.

When she walked into Abbey Road Studios, there were no other musicians there. "Where's the band?" she asked, expecting a Phil Spector-esque orchestra. Instead, the music was made by synthesizers.

They first recorded The Temptations' Ball of Confusion, then Al Green's Let's Stay Together - which became her first UK top 10 hit for a decade.

5. What's Love Got to Do With It (1984)

She cemented her status as a solo star with this song, written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, which had already been offered to Sir Cliff Richard, Donna Summer and Bucks Fizz. Tina initially thought it was too light and poppy.

But she agreed to record it - if she could do it her way, "forcefully, with gravity and raw emotion". It worked - her sexy, defiant rendition, accompanied by a music video featuring her striding along the streets of New York in denim and black leather, gave Turner her only US solo number one and won record of the year at the Grammys.

It also made her oldest woman (at the time) to land a US number one single at the age of 44.

6. Private Dancer (1984)

Image source, Getty Images

(Video) Tina Turner - Top 10 Biggest Solo Hits

The title track from the best-selling album was first recorded by Dire Straits, having been written by the band's frontman Mark Knopfler. But he decided it didn't suit a male vocal. Tina later said in an interview that she hadn't realised the song was about a sex worker.

"I never had to stoop to that in my life," she wrote in her autobiography. "But I think most of us have been in situations where we had to sell ourselves, one way or another.

"When I gave into Ike, when I kept quiet to avoid an argument, when I stayed with him despite longing to leave, that's what I was thinking about when I sang the song, the sadness of doing something that you don't want to do, day in, day out. It's very emotional."

The song features Jeff Beck on guitar, while the video, filmed in London's Rivoli Ballroom, was choreographed by former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips.

7. We Don't Need Another Hero (1985)

Image source, Moviestore/Shutterstock

Another track penned by Britten and Lyle, this song - and Tina herself - appeared in the Mel Gibson film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

A classic 80s power ballad, the lyrics chimed with the desolation of the film's post-apocalyptic world. Turner appeared in the music video as her character Aunty Entity, who she said she connected with because she was "strong and resilient".

"She lost so much, and then she went through so much to get the men in her world to respect her," Tina said. "I related to her struggles because I lived them."

The song was another hit, making it to number two in the US and earning a Grammy nomination and an Ivor Novello award.

8. The Best (1989)

Image source, Getty Images

This was originally written for Bonnie Tyler, but was only a minor hit for the Welsh singer in 1988.

The following year, Tina added some extra vocal force and a new soft rock production - and it became one of her signature songs and one of the decade's defining anthems.

The song is often mistakenly called Simply The Best, a line from its famous chorus. It's been featured in numerous commercials over the years, including a Pepsi ad featuring Turner herself. It was also used to promote rugby league in Australia.

9. Steamy Windows (1989)

This was also on Turner's 1989 album Foreign Affair, and the sultry bluesy track's lyrics left listeners in little doubt as to what was going on in the back seat.

It was another empowering and feminist track from Turner, singing about taking the lead in a sexual encounter. Music Week described it at the time as "a delightfully risqué number" featuring "mischievous guitar runs".

The single got a surprise outing during an Emma Watson interview on ITV's Lorraine a few years ago when the A-list actress's phone rang and the ringtone was… Steamy Windows. A true Tina fan.

(Video) Tina Turner - What You Get Is What You See (Official Music Video)

10. GoldenEye (1995)

Image source, Getty Images

A James Bond theme is a milestone for any artist. Following the success of Tina's Oscar-nominated 1993 biopic What's Love Got to Do With It, the Bond producers called on her for Pierce Brosnan's debut as 007.

The GoldenEye theme itself was written by U2's Bono and The Edge. The frontman gave her a demo of sorts - but she had a lot of work to do.

"He didn't make a proper demo, someone had just thrown the music together," she told the BBC in 2018. "I thought, how do I put this together? It wasn't showing me what the melody was. So I created as close to what I thought the melody was of that.

"I had to work really hard. I knew then that I could sing anything put before me."

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What was Tina Turner's biggest hit? ›

By this time, Turner had begun work on a full album, Private Dancer, which was released in May 1984 and became a worldwide hit. It spawned a string of hit singles, including "What's Love Got to Do with It", which still stands as Turner's biggest hit, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks.

Did Tina Turner write any of her own songs? ›

Turner is perhaps less known as a songwriter, but her diverse songwriting demonstrated her skill and thoughtful, well-crafted lyrics. On her 1972 album Feel Good, nine of the ten songs were written by Turner. From 1973 to 1977, Turner composed all the songs on each album.

What is the original key for simply the best? ›

F Major

What was Tina Turner's first number one song? ›

Her 1984 multi-platinum album Private Dancer contained the hit song "What's Love Got to Do with It", which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and became her first and only number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100.

How many number 1s did Tina Turner have? ›

It may surprise fans to know that although Tina has scored 11 UK Top 10 singles in her lifetime, she never had a Number 1, and is unlikely to now - given that she has been widely retired from recording and performing since 2009, with tonight's documentary being called a "farewell" to fans.

How many times has Tina Turner been inducted into the Hall of Fame? ›

Tina Turner was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame tonight, becoming one of only three women in the institution's history to be inducted twice. Turner wasn't in Cleveland to accept the award in person, but she appeared in a brief special video.

What song did Mick Jagger write for Tina Turner? ›

is a song from The Rolling Stones, primarily written by Mick Jagger. It's the opening track and lead single from their album Sticky Fingers from 1971.

How much money did Tina Turner worth? ›

Tina Turner had an estimated net worth of $250 million at the time of her death. Her financial success was a testament to her immense talent, hard work, and enduring popularity among fans worldwide.

How much money has Tina Turner got? ›

In 2021, Tina Turner sold her music, likeness, and image rights to BMG for a tidy sum of $50 million. This only further added to her $250 million net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth, and it's clear that the icon's legacy is in a class all by itself. But Tina Turner also has four children as her legacy, as well.

What is the rarest song key? ›

A-sharp minor is likely the least used minor key in music as it is not generally considered a practical key for composition.

How to memorize all 12 keys? ›

The Most Practical Way To Master All 12 Keys
  1. Simply put: Take 3 songs you know and learn them in all 12 keys. ...
  2. So if a song is in Eb major, you'll attack E major next by literally taking every note in every chord and moving it up a half step.

What is the best dance key? ›

First: most EDM songs are written in Minor scale. The most common keys are A Minor and C Minor – those are hugely popular.

Has Tina Turner ever had a number one single? ›

On September 1, 1984, Tina Turner had her first solo number one single in the United States with “What's Love Got To Do With It.” The record, expressing a woman's desire for erotic connection without romantic attachments, would go on to earn a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1985.

How old was Tina Turner when she retired from singing? ›

Her life also inspired a hit jukebox musical, “Tina,” that opened on Broadway in 2019. Ms. Turner collaborated with U2's Bono on the theme song for the 1995 James Bond movie “GoldenEye” and appeared at the 2000 Super Bowl. She retired from performing in 2009, the year she turned 70.

Has Tina Turner had a stroke? ›

When did Tina Turner have a stroke? Turner suffered a stroke in October 2013, three months after her second marriage to Erwin Bach, she wrote in her memoir. "I woke up suddenly and in a panic," the iconic singer wrote.

What singer has the most number one songs? ›

The Beatles have the most No. 1 hits of all time: 20. Though unclear for how long, the Beatles still reign supreme as the artist with the most No.

What female has had the most number 1s? ›


Who has the most single number one hits? ›

The Beatles, unsurprisingly, lead the way with a record 20 No. 1s, all earned between 1964 and 1970. The Fab Four also scored 34 top 10s (second only to Madonna's 38), hitting No. 1 in over half their visits to the top 10.

Who is the only woman to be inducted into the Hall of Fame twice? ›

Stevie Nicks' life and career have always had a touch of magical enchantment. Tonight represents a crowning validation of her spellbinding gifts as a rock & roll icon, as she becomes the first woman to be twice inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – with Fleetwood Mac in 1998, and now as a solo artist.

Who is the only woman inducted Rock Hall of Fame? ›

Introduction. Lady Soul. The first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha Franklin was an artist of passion, sophistication and command, whose recordings remain anthems that defined soul music. Long live the Queen.

Who is the only person to be inducted into the rock n Roll Hall of Fame three times? ›

Three inductions, three words: "Clapton is God." Eric Clapton is a consistent hitmaker and one of the greatest guitarists of all time—perhaps that's why he is the only person to be inducted into the Rock Hall three times.

Were Tina Turner and Mick Jagger friends? ›

Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, whom Turner personally taught how to dance, remembered her as a "wonderful friend" both on and off stage. "I'm so saddened by the passing of my wonderful friend Tina Turner," he wrote.

Did Mick Jagger have a relationship with Tina Turner? ›

"We never slept together; and they never came on to me, because I think they saw me as a role model in some kind of way," Tina said, despite later claims that he tried to "woo" her wearing only one of her wigs. "Mick wanted to dance — and I was a dancer — but he never gave me the credit!

What did Mick Jagger say about Tina Turner? ›

“I'm so saddened by the passing of my wonderful friend Tina Turner,” Jagger said on Twitter, adding that Turner was “inspiring, warm, funny and generous. She helped me so much when I was young and I will never forget her.”

Who inherited Ike Turners estate? ›

Who inherited Ike Turner's estate? Ike Turner reportedly didn't have a will at the time of his death. As a result, his children, not his wives or partners, inherited his estate.

Who will Tina Turner leave her money to? ›

After the sudden demise of Turner, it is expected that Tina Turner left a will to specify, what she left behind for every individual. However, it is expected that her wealth will be going to her husband, children, and family. Tina Turner known as the Queen of Rock n Roll had a net worth of around $250 million.

How much money did Ike Turner have when he died? ›

With all of that in mind, it likely won't surprise anyone that Ike wasn't a millionaire when he took his last breath. Still, according to celebritynetworth.com, Ike left behind a $500,000 estate and most people would love to get their hands on that kind of money.

How much did Tina Turner sell her music catalogue for? ›

Following the lead of other artists like Bob Dylan, David Crosby, Paul Simon and Christine McVie, another iconic performer has inked a deal to sell their back catalog.

Is Tina Turner suing? ›

Turner, 81, is suing a Bavarian company, Cofo Entertainment, which produces a show, "Simply The Best — The Tina Turner Story," starring a look-alike, Dorothea "Coco" Fletcher, with a "lion mane" just like the American singer.

What key is the hardest to sing? ›

As a rule of thumb, the more black keys in a given key signature, the more comfortable it will be. D-flat major and F-sharp major are perfectly natural for the hand, whereas the “natural” key of C major is actually the most difficult.

What is the darkest key in music? ›

The darkest scale is the double harmonic major scale which is just a major scale with a flat 2nd and a flat 6th.

What music key has all black keys? ›

The scale is called the pentatonic scale. Depending on where you place the root note, the pentatonic scale that involves all the black keys is either called the E♭ minor pentatonic scale (because the root is E♭) or it is called the G♭ major pentatonic scale (because the root is G♭).

What is the fastest way to memorize 10X? ›

Just so you don't waste your time on memory tips that are NOT going to 10X your memory...
  1. Eat right.
  2. Drink water.
  3. Get a good night's sleep.
  4. Take Omega-3.
  5. Meditate.
  6. Exercise.
  7. Learn a new skill.
  8. Socialize.

What is the fastest way to memorize a key signature? ›

You remember key signatures by counting up or down 5 steps. Starting from C major (which has no sharps and no flats) count 5 steps forward to get sharp keys and count 5 steps backwards to get flat keys.

What is the most famous dance of all time? ›

Check out our Top Ten of the Most Iconic Dances of All Time
  • Michael Jackson's Thriller.
  • Irene Cara's “What A Feeling”
  • Fat Boy Slim's “Weapon of Choice”
  • Psy's “Gangnam Style”
  • PJ & Duncan or rather Ant & Dec's “Let's Get Ready to Rhumble”
  • Kylie's “Can't Get You Out Of My Head”
  • Madonna's “Vogue”
  • Beyoncé's “Single Ladies”

What is the most famous dance move ever? ›

The Moonwalk is one of the most popular dance moves of all time. It was popularized by Michael Jackson, however, the dance existed long before MJ took the stage!

What is the most famous dance move in the world? ›

1. The Moonwalk. You can't list dance moves names without mentioning the moonwalk.

Who is the oldest woman to have a #1 single? ›

Kate's 1985 song has shot to the top of the charts after featuring in Netflix's Stranger Things, and at 63-years-old, Kate beat Cher's record of being the oldest female chart-topper as she was just 52 when 1998's Believe hit the top spot.

What's Tina Turner's biggest hit? ›

'What's Love Got to Do with It'

This song ended up becoming Tina's most successful song ever, and was taken from her 1984 album Private Dancer.

What is Tina Turner's Guinness Book of Records? ›

With a career spanning five decades, Tina holds the Guinness World Record for selling more concert tickets than any other solo performer in history, and has sold more than 200 million albums and singles worldwide to date, making her one of the biggest selling female artists in music history.

What health problems did Tina Turner have? ›

"After suffering a stroke in 2009 because of my poorly controlled hypertension I struggled to get back up on my feet. This is when I first learned that my kidneys didn't work that well anymore. They had already lost thirty-five percent of their function," she recounted in the post.

What was the reason Tina Turner died? ›

The music icon died on May 24 of natural causes, her rep told the Daily Mail Thursday. She was 83 years old.

What caused Ike Turner's death? ›

Addicted to cocaine for at least 15 years, Turner was convicted of drug offenses and served 18 months in prison. After his release in 1991, he relapsed in 2004, dying of a drug overdose in 2007.

How long has Tina Turner been ill? ›

Tina Turner, the pioneering rock'n'roll star who became a pop behemoth in the 1980s, has died aged 83 after a long illness. She had suffered ill health in recent years, being diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016 and having a kidney transplant in 2017.

Did Tina Turner get an organ transplant? ›

Tina, who was diagnosed with hypertension in 1978, signed off using the hashtags WorldKidneyDay, ShowYourKidneysLove and KidneyCare. Her kidney transplant using an organ donated by her husband Erwin Bach, 67, took place in 2017 a year after she was diagnosed with intestinal cancer.

Has Tina Turner ever been married? ›

What was Tina Turner's first hit on her own? ›

On September 1, 1984, Tina Turner had her first solo number one single in the United States with “What's Love Got To Do With It.” The record, expressing a woman's desire for erotic connection without romantic attachments, would go on to earn a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1985.

What famous song did Tina Turner sing? ›

A Fool in Love” may have been Ike & Tina's first million-selling single, but the marrieds' second big seller, “It's Gonna Work Out Fine,” also on the “Dynamite!”

Why is Tina Turner so popular? ›

Tina's singing prowess and on-stage persona amplified the foundational role of African-American women in the rock and roll genre. She was regarded as an icon by her peers, such as Mick Jagger, frontman of The Rolling Stones.

What religion is Tina Turner? ›

While Tina Turner is heralded as an R&B and rock icon, her Buddhist faith was the soul that drove her eventful life and career. She often credited the religion with helping her find the strength to leave her abusive relationship with Ike Turner in 1976.

Was Tina Turner a cleaner? ›

Starting from scratch: 1976

She had a cleaning job in order to pay rent, and after her divorce from Ike in 1978, she began finally attempting a new solo music career.

At what age did Tina Turner last perform? ›

"It was beyond impressive." Turner was 69 at the time of her last concert, but Andrew Curphey, from Widnes, recalled the her tireless performance. He remembered her rushing across the stage in high heels and said: "She was just such a physical performer, she filled that stage.

Has Tina Turner retired from singing? ›

Turner announced her retirement in 2000, a year after releasing her final solo album, Twenty Four Seven, though she would return to the stage in 2008, performing at the Grammy awards with Beyoncé, and for a final tour to mark 50 years of her career. That was conclusively the end.

What Beatles song did Tina Turner sing? ›

Tina sings a slow cover of "the Beatles" classic song wearing white and singing in small club on a stage. This song was featured on Tina's 1984 "private dancer" album.

What is the most recorded song in the Guinness Book of World Records? ›

This is according to "The Summertime Connection", a group of fans from around the world with a shared passion for the aria, written by Gershwin in 1933–34 for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. As of the same date, the group had collected 57,316 full recordings of "Summertime".

Who holds the most Guinness records? ›

Meet Ashrita Furman

Now aged 68, Furman, a New York-based health food store manager holds the Guinness World Record for the most Guinness World Records. While he has set more than 600 official records, currently he holds 530 of them.

What is the Guinness Book of World Record for song? ›

The longest officially released song is 138 hr 41 min 20 sec, and was achieved by Dr.

What was Tina Turner illness? ›

Tina Turner had intestinal cancer

In January 2016, Turner was diagnosed with intestinal cancer, she shared in her memoir. She'd been suffering from chronic diarrhea for months previously, she wrote. It was diagnosed at an early stage, and she had carcinoma and multiple malignant polyps.

Why has Tina Turner retired? ›

Turner retired from music in 2009 after going on one of the best-selling tours of all time: the “Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour.” She moved to Switzerland with her husband in 1995 and became a naturalized citizen. “I don't necessarily want to be a 'strong' person,” she told The New York Times.

What are 2 interesting facts about Tina Turner? ›

10 Interesting Facts About Tina Turner
  • Tina Turner was not her real name. ...
  • Her mother abandoned her. ...
  • Tina Turner played basketball. ...
  • She met her first husband when she sort of took the mic from him. ...
  • The first song Ike & Tina Turner recorded together was released in 1960. ...
  • Tina Turner married Ike Turner in 1962.
13 hours ago


1. Tina Turner dies: Her most famous songs
(The Times and The Sunday Times)
2. Tina Turner Dead at 83
(Entertainment Tonight)
3. Jimmy Barnes & Tina Turner - (Simply) The Best (Official Video)
(Official Jimmy Barnes)
4. Tina Turner - Private Dancer (Official Music Video)
(Tina Turner)
5. The Best
(Tina Turner)
6. Tina Turner - The Best (Live from Arnhem, Netherlands)
(Tina Turner)
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