meta-scriptRemembering The Artistry Of Tina Turner, "The Epitome Of Power And Passion" | GRAMMY.com
tina turner performing live 1990
Tina Turner in 1990

Photo: Rob Verhorst/Redferns

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Remembering The Artistry Of Tina Turner, "The Epitome Of Power And Passion"

Throughout her eight GRAMMY wins and 25 nominations, Tina Turner’s vast and generation-spanning musical output proved equally entertaining and inspirational. The Bold Soul Sister died on May 24 at her home near Zurich, Switzerland. She was 83.

GRAMMYs/May 25, 2023 - 04:15 pm

The Queen of Rock 'n' Roll, recording legend, icon of empowerment. No matter how one refers to Tina Turner, her passing constitutes a seismic loss that marks the end of a shining cultural legacy which leaves in its wake an industry-shaping career. Throughout her eight GRAMMY wins and 25 nominations, Turner’s vast and generation-spanning musical output proved equally entertaining and inspirational.

The icon died on May 24 at her home near Zurich, Switzerland. She was 83.

"Tina Turner broke barriers for women on and off the stage throughout her incredible career," said Harvey Mason jr, CEO of The Recording Academy, of Turner who received GRAMMY’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018 and is a three-time inductee to the GRAMMY Hall of Fame. "She amazed audiences worldwide with her electrifying performances, including on our GRAMMY stage in 1985 and 2008, and was an undeniable rockstar who paved the way for so many with her signature style and powerful vocals. She will be greatly missed by all the people she touched around the globe."

It’s a sentiment shared by the music industry, and world, at large. "She was truly an enormously talented performer and singer,"Mick Jaggerwrote on social media. "She was inspiring, warm, funny and generous. She helped me so much when I was young and I will never forget her." On her website, Beyoncé — who performed with Turner at the 50th GRAMMY Awards — paid tribute to her "beloved Queen," writing, "I love you endlessly. I’m so grateful for your inspiration and all the ways you paved the way. You are strength and resilience. You are the epitome of power and passion."Elton John put it simply: "We have lost one of the world's most exciting and electric performers," he wrote. "She was untouchable."

Turner’s untouchable talent famously embodied two phases. First, her tumultuous collaboration with husband Ike Turner, during which they performed as a duo and yielded hits including the oft-covered "Proud Mary." The instantly-recognizable song earned the couple a GRAMMY Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Group in 1972 and was inducted in the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 2003. In her triumphant second act, Turner broke away from the partnership. She reinvented herself as a solo performer, improbably transitioning from a '60s and '70s-era rocker to arena pop star in the 1980s. 

For her efforts, the singer swept the major categories at the 1985 GRAMMY Awards, winning Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "What’s Love Got To Do With It." She also took home the golden gramophone for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for "Better Be Good To Me."

One of her most indelible hits, Turner utilized "What's Love Got To Do With It" as a call to action, becoming brutally honest about her abusive relationship with her ex-husband along the way. Turner later recalled toRolling Stone that when she left Ike in July 1976, "I had nothing. I didn’t even know how to get money. I had a girl working for me who had worked for Ike, because she knew about ways of getting money. I didn’t know how to do any of that stuff." She later devised what’s considered one of the greatest comebacks in music history.

First offered to Donna Summer — who sat on the track before ultimately passing — songwriter Terry Britten later revealed that she thought "What’s Love Got to Do With It" was "awful." Turner didn't like the song either, but recorded it following encouragement from her manager, Roger Davis.

"I said, 'If it doesn't work out, we won't use it. So let's give it a go,'" Britten recalled in her 2021 documentary, Tina.  It wasn’t until Turner laid down her vocal track that the song was elevated from pop confection into a showcase for the vocal powerhouse. "They weren't used to a strong voice standing on top of music," Turner said in the documentary. "But I converted it and made it my own."

Turner’s deft musical translation is evident throughout her eclectic discography, from the blues-inflicted rock she performed as Ike & Tina Turner, to pop anthems like 1989’s "The Best" (which became a trademark and, naturally, the title of a popular greatest hits album).  In 1962, she was nominated for her first GRAMMY Award for Best Rock and Roll Recording for "It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,"  her and Ike’s hit from the previous year which was offered to them after songwriter Rose Marie McCoy saw their energetic stage show at the Apollo. 

It was an auspicious early hit for Turner, who would become a staple of the category for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female. Decades later, she earned back-to-back wins in the category for "One of the Living" and "Back Where We Started" in 1986 and 1987, a nomination for "Better Be Good To Me" in ‘88, and took home the golden gramophone in ‘89 for Tina Live in Europe, among many others. 

"My songs are a little bit of everybody’s lives who are watching me," said Turner to Rolling Stonein the midst of her hot streak in 1986. "You gotta sing what they can relate to. And there are some raunchy people out there. The world is not perfect. And all of that is in my performance; I play with it."

Born Anna Mae Bullock, Turner’s journey to musical dynamo began on the farmlands of Tennessee where she discovered early on her passion for artistic expression. "As a girl, every chance I got, I’d go to our local movie theater and memorize scenes so I could reenact them," she recalled in 2021 the Harvard Business Review. "Although I did have a bit of singing training in high school and even learned some opera, my voice and dance abilities have mostly come naturally to me." 

That vocal prowess and inimitable energy as a performer was on full display throughout her life behind the microphone, one of the most memorable examples being "River Deep-Mountain High." Inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 1999, her duet with Ike was produced by Phil Spector who Turner said had him cut her vocals ad nauseam to spectacular results. "I must have sung that 500,000 times," she told Rolling Stone after the publication ranked the track No. 33 of their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. "I was drenched with sweat. I had to take my shirt off and stand there in my bra to sing." 

Upon her death, the New York Times called her "a magnetic singer with explosive power." That power was visible on and off the stage, both in her artistry and ability to soldier on in the face of the numerous obstacles.  In a 2005 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Turner explained, "There's an expression, 'You'll never get out of this world alive.' It's true. We won't. Go forward. Do your best with your makeup, hair, and clothes." 

In that same interview, Turner also mused about her legacy, touching on the inspiration she doled out by being her authentic self. "My wish is to give the kind of truth to people that will help them change their minds. When that happens, I'll be the best that I can be."

10 Essential Tina Turner Cuts From the '70s: How Her Forgotten Era Set The Stage For A Dramatic Debut As A Solo Performer

Nxdia, Shamir, girli, King Princess, Zolita, Laura Les, Towa Bird in collage
(From left) Nxdia, Shamir, girli, King Princess, Zolita, Laura Les, Towa Bird

Photos: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Depop; Matthew James-Wilson; Claryn Chong; Burak Cingi/Redferns; Taylor Hill/Getty Images for Boston Calling; Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage; Courtesy Interscope Records

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Listen To GRAMMY.com's 2024 Pride Month Playlist Of Rising LGBTQIA+ Artists

From Laura Les and Nxdia to Alice Longyu Gao and Bambi Thug, a new class of LGBTQIA+ artists is commanding you to live out loud.

GRAMMYs/Jun 3, 2024 - 01:37 pm

LGBTQ+ artists have long shaped the music industry and culture at large, offering audiences a glimpse into their unique lives, shared experiences and so much more.

Queer artists are foundational to American music; Released in 1935, Lucille Bogan’s “B.D. Woman’s Blues” was one of the first lesbian blues songs — and wouldn’t be the last. Fellow blues singers Gladys Bently, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith also sang about same-sex love (thinly veiled or otherwise). On opposite ends of the 1970s musical spectrum, disco (itself a queer artform) and punk musicians explored gender identity in song and performance —  defying conventional gender norms at the time. Gender fluidity became part of the culture during the '80s, with genre-bending artists such as David Bowie and Boy George leading the charge. 

In the decades since,  a spectrum of LGBTQIA+ artists is opening up —  and creating work about — their sexual and gender identities. Queer artists are also being recognized for their contributions to global culture. In 1999, six-time GRAMMY winner Elton John became the first gay man to receive the GRAMMY Legend Award. 

Read more: The Evolution Of The Queer Anthem: From Judy Garland To Lady Gaga & Lil Nas X

The GRAMMY Awards have become more inclusive of the queer community. In 2012, the Music's Biggest Night became the first major awards show to remove gendered categories. In 2014, Queen Latifah officiated a mass wedding of straight and gay couples during Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love” performance, which included gay icon Madonna performing her “Open Your Heart.” In 2022, Brazilian singer/songwriter Liniker became the first trans artist to win a Latin GRAMMY. Just three months later, Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first nonbinary and trans artists, respectively, to win a GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performances for their collaboration, “Unholy.” The 2024 GRAMMYs marked a record high for queer women winning major awards: Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Victoria Monét, and boygenuis all took home golden gramophones in the Big Six Categories. 

As queer artists continue to command attention across genres and get their flowers on the global stage, a new class of LGBTQIA+ artists is emerging into the scene. These artists are both following in the steps of established acts by sharing their experiences through their music, and creating work that is unique to their lives and time. 

In celebration of Pride Month 2024, GRAMMY.com has put together a playlist of rising artists across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, whose sound commands you to live out loud. 

PRIDE & Black Music Month: Celebrating LGBTQIA+ & Black Voices

Elton John with Lion King Broadway cast in 1999
Elton John (center) with actors Paulette Ivory as 'Nala' (left) and Roger Wright as 'Simba' (right) at the opening night 'The Lion King' musical in London in 1999.

Photo: Dave Benett/Getty Images

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9 Reasons Why 'The Lion King' Is The Defining Disney Soundtrack

Thirty years after 'The Lion King: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack' was released, revisit all the ways it became Disney's ultimate musical moment, from multiple GRAMMYs to a Broadway smash.

GRAMMYs/May 31, 2024 - 05:14 pm

Following the untimely death of their regular composer Howard Ashman, who, alongside Alan Menken, had written the soundtracks for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, Walt Disney Feature Animation were forced to look elsewhere for 1994's The Lion King. As their first film ever based on an original story, and their first to consist entirely of animal characters, the Mouse House was already taking something of a gamble. And they further refused to play it safe by appointing a pop star with no prior experience of the Hollywood machine.

Luckily, the leftfield choice of British national treasure Elton John (then without his Sir title), proved to be a masterstroke. Alongside Tim Rice, the lyricist best-known for his musical theater work with Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Rocket Man delivered five instant classics. Not only did the likes of "Can You Feel The Love Tonight," "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," and "Circle of Life" perfectly help push forward the narrative, but they also helped push the film to awards glory at the Oscars and GRAMMYs, a colossal box office figure of nearly one billion dollars, and permanent residency in the pop culture landscape.

Of course, John and Rice can't take all the credit for Lion King's roaring success. Acclaimed composer Hans Zimmer also came on board to give an orchestral touch to the Shakespeare-inspired tale of an heir apparent, who after escaping his wicked uncle's clutches, returns years later to reclaim his rightful position. And professional singers Carmen Twillie, Sally Dworsky, and Kristle Edwards joined household names such as Nathan Lane, Whoopi Goldberg, and Rowan Atkinson in the recording booth, further driving the massive impact of the movie and its music.

Thirty years after it first enamored the Blockbuster generation, we take a look at how The Lion King still sits at the top of the Disney soundtrack throne.

It's Still The Biggest Selling Disney Soundtrack 

Forget The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, or the more recent musical phenomenon that is Frozen. When it comes to pure sales, the runaway Disney soundtrack leader is The Lion King. The Rice/John/Zimmer collaboration shifted nearly five million copies domestically in 1994 alone. And its impressive worldwide total is now triple that amount.

It's a figure that also places The Lion King in the top 10 best-selling soundtracks of all time. Indeed, it's Disney's only representative in the list, which includes Prince's Purple Rain, James Horner's Titanic, and Bee Gees' Saturday Night Fever, as well as the "I Will Always Love You"-featuring The Bodyguard at No. 1. (It still has a way to go to beat John's commercial peak, though. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has reportedly sold an astonishing 20 million since its release in 1973.)

It Made GRAMMY History 

It wasn't just at the box office where Disney firmly established its second golden age. Before the release of 1989's The Little Mermaid, the Mouse House hadn't attracted GRAMMYs attention once. By the turn of the century, however, they'd racked up a remarkable 30 nominations and 17 wins — and The Lion King played a major part in this awards dominance.

In fact, it made history by becoming the first Disney winner of both Best Male Pop Vocal Performance ("Can You Feel the Love Tonight") and Best Musical Album For Children, while "Circle of Life" picked up Best Instrumental Arrangement With Accompanying Vocals, too. The Lion King also followed in the footsteps of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin by picking up the Academy Awards for both Best Original Song and Best Original Score.

It Started A Trend Of Pop Artist Composers 

While Celine Dion, Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle had all previously lent their vocals to Disney's second golden age, The Lion King was the studio's first soundtrack to give a pop star composing duties. Alongside Tim Rice, the celebrated lyricist who'd worked on Aladdin, Elton John wrote all five of the album's vocal numbers. And it was a setup that appeared to give several of his peers ideas.

Randy Newman had already picked up Academy Award nods for his composing talents on 1981's Ragtime. But it wasn't until 1995's Toy Story that the singer/songwriter began the fruitful Disney animation partnership that would also take in the Monsters Inc. and Cars franchises. In 1999, Phil Collins co-wrote and performed the entirety of Tarzan's pop soundtrack. And four years later, Carly Simon decided to get in on the Mouse House action by pulling double duty on seven songs for Piglet's Big Movie.

It Introduced Hans Zimmer To Animation 

The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, Madagascar, and The Simpsons Movie are just a few of the hit animations to have benefitted from Hans Zimmer's Midas touch. But it wasn't until 12 years into his career that the German composer proved that his talents could be used just as effectively in the world of animation as live-action. And The Lion King was the catalyst.

Zimmer provided four instrumental pieces for the Disney phenomenon including "This Land," "To Die For," and "King of Pride Rock," also bagging two GRAMMYS, an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his efforts. And as he told Classic FM while promoting his work on the 2019 remake, he has a certain family member to thank. "My daughter was 6 years old. I'd never been able to take her to any premieres, and Dad likes to show off."

It Spawned Several Crossover Hits 

Although Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin had both spawned big Hot 100 hits (the chart-topping "Beauty and the Beast" and Dion and Bryson's "A Whole New World," respectively), The Lion King was the first Disney soundtrack to produce two. "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" reached No. 4 in the U.S. (and No.1 in Canada and France), while "Circle of Life" peaked at No. 18. Even "Hakuna Matata" saw some Billboard action, gracing both the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks and Bubbling Under charts.

You're unlikely to ever see Elton John performing the latter – four of the film's cast members including Nathan Lane provided the vocals. But the two official singles have remained staples of both his live shows and countless compilations ever since. And they've crossed over to the Spotify age, too, with "Circle of Life" racking up103 million streams and "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" a whopping 322 million.

It Birthed Broadway's Biggest Hit 

Hitting the New Amsterdam Theatre in October 1997, The Lion King wasn't the first Disney animation to get a Broadway stage adaptation (Beauty and the Beast had opened at the Palace Theatre three years earlier) — but it remains the biggest. In fact, thanks to a run of 8,500 shows, its $1 billion-plus gross is now the highest in the theater district's history.

The Lion King has also made it around the world, picking up numerous Tony and Olivier Awards along the way. And as you'd expect, the film soundtrack's pop numbers have been just as pivotal to the theater production's success as its immersive set design, powerhouse performances, and jaw-dropping puppetry.

Those lucky enough to see the spectacle before 2010 would also have enjoyed something of a lost classic. Sung by Mufasa's hornbill advisor Zazu, the John/Rice-penned "The Morning Report" was omitted from the 1994 film but enjoyed a 13-year run in the stage show's opening act.

It Covers A Vast Range of Styles 

"The plan was that we wouldn't write the usual Broadway-style Disney score," John later wrote in his 2019 memoir, Me, about his and Rice's approach to the film. "But try and come up with pop songs that kids would like."

Indeed, while the partnership of Menken and Ashman grounded their Disney sing-alongs in the worlds of musical theater and Tin Pan Alley, the new dream team were determined to venture outside the Mouse House's comfort zone.

The Lion King OST boasts everything from carefree novelty sing-alongs ("Hakuna Matata") and emotive showstoppers ("Can You Feel The Love Tonight") to campy villain songs ("Be Prepared") and rumba rockabilly ("I Just Can't Wait To Be King"). And then there's Zimmer's instrumental pieces that typically begin with cinematic strings before building up to a Zulu choir crescendo, immediately transporting listeners to the vast landscape of Pride Rock.

It Kickstarted Elton John's Second Career 

"I sat there with a line of lyrics that began, 'When I was a young warthog,'" John told Time magazine in 1995 about the inception of The Lion King soundtrack, "and I thought, 'Has it come to this?'"

The pop legend needn't have worried. The song in question, "Hakuna Matata," might not have been his most lyrically sophisticated. But the comic interlude proved that John could put an infectious melody to literally any subject. And alongside his four other contributions, it gave him the impetus to further explore the world of musical theater.

The Brit subsequently reunited with Rice for 2000's Aida, a pop-oriented adaptation of Giuseppi Verdi's same-named opera which earned a GRAMMY for Best Musical Show Album in 2001. And then in 2005, John struck Broadway gold once again with the multiple Tony Award-winning screen-to-stage transfer of ballet drama Billy Elliot. That same year, he also teamed up with regular collaboratorBernie Taupin on the score for Lestat, a musical version of Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles.

It Formed Part Of The 2019 Remake 

Proof of just how well The Lion King soundtrack has endured came in 2019 when Jon Favreau's live-action remake borrowed all five of its vocal numbers. The performers were different, of course — see the likes of John Oliver on "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," Beyoncé and Donald Glover on "Can You Feel The Love Tonight," and Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner on "Hakuna Matata." But while Zimmer's reimaginings gave them an additional African flavor, the songs didn't stray too far from the source material.

But even with a starrier cast and a bunch of new compositions and covers, the new Lion King OST failed to strike the same chord with the cinemagoing public, selling just a fraction of its predecessor. Even Beyoncé's flagship single "Spirit" failed to peak any higher than No. 98 on the Hot 100. Sometimes, the originals truly are the best.

How 1995 Became A Blockbuster Year For Movie Soundtracks

Shaboozey Press Photo 2024
Shaboozey

Photo: Daniel Prakopcyk

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Shaboozey On His New Album, Beyoncé & Why He'll Never Be A "Stereotypical" Artist

After Beyoncé introduced Shaboozey to a global audience via 'COWBOY CARTER,' his genre-shattering third album arrives on the wings of his own international smash, "A Bar Song (Tipsy)" and makes a declaration: 'Where I've Been, Isn't Where I'm Going.'

GRAMMYs/May 31, 2024 - 03:40 pm

The last two months have been monumental for Shaboozey. On March 29, Beyoncé fans around the world embraced his two guest collaborations on her COWBOY CARTER album, "SPAGHETTII" and "SWEET HONEY BUCKIIN'" — and they were instantly interested in what else the Nigerian-American singer had to offer. According to his label, EMPIRE, Spotify listens of Shaboozey's music (including his first two albums, 2018's Lady Wrangler and 2022's Cowboys Live Forever, Outlaws Never Die) rose by 1000 percent after COWBOY CARTER dropped.

Six weeks later, his growing fandom sent his breakthrough single, "A Bar Song (Tipsy)," to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country chart — ironically, dethroning Queen Bey's "Texas Hold 'Em" in the process. The song instantly proved to have crossover appeal, also peaking at No. 3 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart, along with reaching the top spot on pop charts in Australia, Canada, Norway, and Sweden.

With his third album, Where I've Been, Isn't Where I'm Going, the man born Collins Chibueze is eager for audiences new and old to get a deeper look into his ever-evolving artistry, which he's been honing for more than a decade. He leans into country and the soundtrack of the open road on "Highway" and "Vegas," while also tapping into his talent as an MC on "Drink Don't Need No Mix" with Texas rapper BigXthaPlug. He displays a softer side, too, with tracks like "My Fault," an apologetic and pleading country ballad performed with Noah Cyrus, and "Steal Her From Me," which finds Shaboozey smoldering with his own Southern slow jam.

Shaboozey's massive global recognition may be fresh, but he's here to remind listeners that he's not a new artist. In a candid interview with GRAMMY.com, the singer discusses how he's put in a decade of hard work in order to appear to be an overnight success.

You've topped the country charts as well as pop charts around the world. Do you think we are witnessing a more welcoming era in country music right now?

I think it's definitely a lot more welcoming. All these genres of music now, just because of the internet age and the access to information — like, now I can go watch Tubi, which has thousands of Western movies, and then Spotify, I can jump from listening to a Townes Van Zandt album or a Leonard Cohen album, and then I can go play Future, you know what I mean?

And then I can jump from them, and go listen to The Marías, who are friends of mine. I can listen to some indie rock music, and then I can listen to some Fred again.. or something like that. So having all that at your fingertips, I think, it's allowed for some interesting combinations in all genres of music.

I think we're the generation of paint splatter! I do think it is very welcoming. As artists we are able to connect. We can have our own micro communities. There's not just one way to connect with people now, there are so many other ways. It's different out there now, it's really different.

You're releasing your second album with EMPIRE — how has the company helped you to develop?

EMPIRE has been super awesome. I was signed to Republic for a while, for a year or two, and I saw some article where it talked about Universal partnering with EMPIRE to handle some distribution stuff. I remember talking to my manager at the time, and being like, "We should go there!"

Major labels can get pretty cluttered. Sometimes they just don't have the bandwidth to develop acts that aren't going to take off in a couple weeks or a month or a quarter. They have these quarterlies they have to meet.

So for an artist like me, who is — a lot of people like to describe me as disruptive. It's weird to describe yourself as that. I'm just being me, and people are like, "That's disruptive." But for someone like me, who's like that, it's very important for me to be innovative and push things, and change the way people consume.

I never came in the game wanting to be stereotypical, or just your usual artist. I came in just trying to be like, Man, I love art. I love being creative and that's what I am. Sometimes that's hard to package to everyone. It's like, what is it? For major labels, sometimes, they love to be like, this is pop, this is country, this is just that.

And so for EMPIRE to bring me into what they had going on, and to stick with me within these three or four years I've been with them, knowing that there has been a lot of ups and downs. There've been a lot of [times] that we thought were going to do something that [we] didn't. Because it's a process with artistry, it doesn't happen overnight. They say it takes 10 years to have an overnight success, and it's true.

Your new album flows so well. Was it written to be taken in as one complete piece?

I'm a lover of a concept album. I love film, I love stories, I love payoffs. I love the hero's journey, they call it.

There is a way to tell a story in a three-act structure. And within those structures you have your rising action, you have your hero's call to action. They lead the world, you have your climax, and then you have, was the hero changed? Did they get the thing they were looking for at the end of it?

I'm a huge fan of film, huge on concepts, world building. I want something to feel immersive, so arrangement is big to me.

But before, I used to be super picky about [ensuring that] everything needs to connect, and I had to learn to let that go and just know that that's a part of me as an artist. As I create, I'm telling these stories naturally, so I stopped being too hard on myself about things needing to connect because that would cripple me at certain points. But now, again, I'm just learning how to let it go, and let it come naturally. It's cool to see that people are still saying with this project that there's still a concept there. And I'm like, oh, there is still a concept there. There is still a story.

My last project [Cowboys Live Forever, Outlaws Never Die] was super inspired by western films. Old western films, like, spaghetti westerns, and the whole nature of outlaw, just like period piece western culture. So I was huge on everything needing to feel like it was period. It needed to feel like this 1800s western, and this Black outlaw and his gang.

Obviously, I wanted the [visual] content to reflect that. And then you're realizing…  Wait, every video shoot I'm having to rent western wardrobe and chaps? It's a lot to do all the time, you know? It was a commitment… and I don't wear that everyday, so it wasn't really 100 percent being authentically myself in that moment. It was like, I'm creating a character and this character is separate from me.

That's hard to do all the time. Especially when it's a period piece in the 1800s and you're in 2024. So at some point I was like, hey, I want this project to be more like, I can put something on in my closet and go shoot some content, versus having to find a western town, or a world or environment that fits the 1800s.

Do you think that Beyoncé was inspired by that album?

I definitely think so. I think that's what was cool about her project, and her entry into country. I saw a lot of similarities between the things that inspired us.

What I love about country is, I really love the old stuff that really does play into the old West, the Wild West — and I saw that Beyoncé, she would talk about little things like that, too. Like the outlaws, hangmen and six shooters, and stuff like that. So you can see that she's really inspired by that stuff as well. I was told by her team that she would definitely watch a lot of old Western films through the process of doing her project.

How has the Beyhive treated you since you appeared on COWBOY CARTER?

I love that community. Seriously, that community, they've been extremely supportive from what I've seen, because Beyoncé's message has been about shining light on people that may have been overlooked. So they definitely carry out the mission of supporting the people that Beyoncé supports. They've been amazing.

I would like to say that early on with "Bar Song," they were definitely pre-saving it, they were sharing it as much as they could on Twitter, and there were a lot of posts that I was making that were getting high viewership. You could tell that there were a lot of impressions before the "Bar Song" came out. So they're great.

Did you ever think you'd be on an album with Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton?

I hoped for those things when I was creating my album. I wanted to see more hip-hop artists collaborating with people like that. I was always like, man, if I was given a $10 million budget to make a project, I'd get Willie Nelson or Hank Williams Jr. or someone like that to jump on it. I want to see something like that.

As someone whose parents grew up in Nigeria, what do you think of the global breakthrough of Nigerian artists like Burna Boy and Wizkid?

It's amazing to see. Afrobeat is definitely universal now, global like that. I think Wizkid was one of the pioneers of getting that music across the water in such a way. Burna Boy, too — if you check out his aesthetic, it's influenced by a lot of different things. He's not just wearing traditional Nigerian garments, he's wearing designer stuff, and he's got the jewelry pieces and Cartier. It's presented in a way that that style of music wasn't really represented [before] in that sense.

I lived in Nigeria for a year or two, and when I was there, there was no wifi or the internet. Now I go back and my cousins are on Netflix and on Instagram and all these places. So yeah, everything is spreading out. But as far as Afrobeat, I mean, that music is incredible, the production. It's so infectious when you hear it, but it's cool to see people of Nigerian descent, me as well, having our reach everywhere.

Davido, he reached out to me a couple days ago, he's like, "I need you to get on this record." There's a lot of Nigerian artists now that are hitting me up, and are like, "Hey, will you jump on this, will you jump on that?" I'm hearing some of those guys are trying to get into country music. It's cool to kind of have my own Burna Boy moment right now!

The new album sounds like you really worked on developing your voice as an instrument, with more singing than rapping. Is that a fair assumption?

Yeah. Being from Virginia, we didn't have those outlets to kind of hone in on. I didn't have a vocal coach, or a songwriting program, or anything like that. We kind of had to figure it out on our own.

I think that's why you have so many artists that come from Virginia where they're all very eclectic, they all have this kind of rawness to them. Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Pharrell, even Tommy Richman. He's got that song going crazy viral too. You know the song, the "Million Dollar Baby" song. It's a guy singing falsetto [like] Bee Gees over a hip-hop beat. I'm like, where did you learn to structure a song like this?

This album was that project for me. My manager here [told me] it's working, because I'm learning how to arrange music and write songs that have a broader appeal, but I didn't know that at the time. We were just having fun, just learning how to do it with whatever resources we had. It can get kind of funky.

I think my first project was very funky, and then this one was [made after] 10 years of being in it. You start to figure it out a little bit more.

Beyond Country: All The Genres Beyoncé Explores On 'Cowboy Carter'

Tina Turner
Tina Turner

Photo: Paul Natkin/GettyImages

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Revisiting ‘Private Dancer’ At 40: How Tina Turner’s Liberation Album Remains A Musical Salvation

Released in May 1984, ‘Private Dancer’ was a musical tour de force. The record saw Tina Turner shed her assured vocal talents, exposing some fragility while adding in some sultriness too, to share a powerful tale of finally finding liberation.

GRAMMYs/May 30, 2024 - 02:50 pm

“How it all came about was a miracle,” says Terry Britten, the co-writer and producer of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” 

The enduring single on Turner's 1984 album Private Dancer, released 40 years ago this month, was the songstress' ultimate emancipating act. It liberated her from the strictures of a music career bound to former husband Ike Turner, and debuted a new, self-possessed persona that highlighted her own rich talents as a solo artist. Decades on, the album remains a searing testament to resilience and the power of raw, honest expression.   

Private Dancer, her fifth solo outing, was the beginning of Turner's renaissance and next era. Still, some of its most powerful songs — including “What’s Love” — almost didn’t make the cut. In fact, the song’s woeful quality and halted vocals proved an obstacle for Turner. 

“After all this time, I’ve realized what the problem was and why she didn’t like it: because she was so damn vulnerable in it,” Britten tells GRAMMY.com. “She’d never been that vulnerable before in a song.” 

Turner had long wrestled with her public image and allowing listeners into her inner world. Despite her success in the '70s and the subsequent 1976 breakdown of her abusive marriage to Ike (which left her penniless), followed by less successful Las Vegas revue shows, Turner was wary of conceding defeat. 

Her career revival was largely born after Turner had made a cameo appearance in 1982 on the synth-inspired remake of The Temptations' “Ball of Confusion.” Masterminded by pop band Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware, the song netted Turner a singles deal with Capitol Records. Her next pairing with Ware, a remake of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” was a runaway success, charting at number six in the UK and No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100, in late 1983 and early 1984 respectively.

Chart success had eluded Turner for years, so by February 1984 Capitol quickly demanded a full album — with two weeks to deliver it. With Turner already on tour in the UK then, her manager, Roger Davies, raced around London seeking potential tracks. Davies had been old friends with Britten back in Australia, and reached out about available songs. 

Co-written with Graham Lyle, Britten's "What’s Love” had been skipped over by British rock singer Cliff Richard. Its rumination on sexual over romantic desire awaited a new voice. 

Turner's powerhouse vocals gave the track the justice it so called for. Just as her vocal prowess was put on display, "What's Love" also underscored Turner's ability to bring both fragility and sultriness to a song. The combination would soon propel Turner to worldwide domination. 

In the studio, Britten leaned on Turner’s dancing background to make the meditative ballad work. Turner struggled with the song’s languid rhythm, so Britten suggested she jog on the spot. “We jogged at the mic,” he says. “Soon enough, she got it!” 

Britten believes “What’s Love” showed Turner, for the first time, how empowering vulnerability could be. “She realized she could act out these songs,” he reflects. “The whole direction of her career changed in that moment.” 

Released in May 1984, “What’s Love” slowly scaled the charts, competing for prime position with the likes of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and Lionel Ritchie’s “Stuck on You.” “What’s Love” ultimately landed at No. 1 in August 1984 — staying there for three weeks — and fast-tracked Turner’s forceful musical renaissance. 

The arrival of Private Dancer only galvanized the transformation. 

The album was a mixture of old and new, figuratively stitching together a reinvigorated yet still rock ’n’ roll Turner. There were completely new tracks and sounds, like the synth-infused “What’s Love” and spunky, pulsating “Show Some Respect” (another Britten number). Covers of the Beatles’ “Help!” and David Bowie’s “1984,” meanwhile, were reimagined with searching gospel energy and symphonic orchestral strings.

There was an emphasis on storytelling across Private Dancer, with lyrical explorations of respect, love, and desire, paired with Turner’s frayed timbre. “I Might Have Been Queen” was penned by Jeannette Obstoj and Rupert Hine in response to hearing Turner’s life story. From a youth picking cotton in Tennessee to her years as a double act with Ike, Obstoj took Turner’s trying life (and lifelong interest in Ancient Egypt) to craft an earthy narrative textured by stories of grief and self-understanding. The stomping funk result was an anthemic tribute, celebrating Turner as she sang proudly of being a “sole survivor.” 

Allowed into Turner’s inner sanctum, listeners could better understand and relate to the singer’s past life — whether these were real stories or imagined tales. Songs like “Private Dancer,” seemingly about a dancer who keeps a firm psychological distance from her job as a means of self-protection, couldn’t help but be tied back to Turner’s former life as the mistreated singing partner to Ike. Turner’s coarse vocals — retelling regret with the ballad “Better Be Good to Me,” or celebrating self-confidence on “Show Some Respect” — underscored her toughness as she sang about respect and recognition. 

Tina Turner’s emotional depth and lyrical confessions resonated with critics and listeners, affirming Turner as sensitive, soulful and, above all, an iconic solo artist. The success of the record at the 1985 GRAMMYs only affirmed Turner's status. 

Britten, who won two gramophones for his work and joined Turner on stage to collect the GRAMMY for Record Of The Year, said that the audience — there and even at home watching — manifested her three wins that night. “In between introductions, you could hear the whole crowd going, ‘Tina! Tina! Tina!’” he says. “It was like the whole auditorium wanted her to win. In fact, they willed her to win.” 

The entire musical project was a frenzied worldwide phenomenon: the confident comeback story of a 45-year-old liberated woman. Private Dancer represents a rare redemption for a female artist over 40 — a script contemporaries have taken cues from.   

Madonna enjoyed a return serve with her revealing 1998 spiritual album Ray of Light, a record that saw her achieve renewed commercial success — and perhaps most important to her, critical acclaim. After the abject failure of 2001’s Glitter, Mariah Carey stormed the charts (and GRAMMYs) in 2005 with her confessional but defiant album, The Emancipation of Mimi. Janet Jackson, no longer suffering public shame after the infamous Superbowl incident and finally free to release music under her own label, returned revealing a more mature, reflective artist with 2015’s Unbreakable. Each album privileged some aspect of self-exposure and sonic difference to mount a comeback where audiences were invited in.    

Publicly sharing some vulnerability while also celebrating fortitude, continues to enliven the story of Private Dancer — and the listening experience decades on. After Tina Turner's death in 2023, critics reappraised the record and the seismic impact of “What’s Love.” Some said the song was an enduring “call to action” on finding independence, while others concluded that Private Dancer alone “lifted [Turner] into the pop stratosphere.” 

The record represents one of history’s greatest musical comebacks. Its emotional depth, paired with a tough if sometimes frayed sound, gave listeners a deeply resonant tale about overcoming. 

“She gave me such trust,” Britten says of recording with Turner. “I can’t tell you what a moving experience it was.” With Private Dancer, Turner entrusted listeners with her own vulnerable admissions, many of which continue to resonate and inspire today. 

Remembering The Artistry Of Tina Turner, "The Epitome Of Power And Passion"