Tina Turner, a Cover Story

Tina Turner – November 26, 1939-May 24, 2023

As you have no doubt read of the passing of the legendary Tina Turner, there is much to learn about her life and music. I won’t repeat what others may write about, as I tend to do, the story today is about her music through the songs she has covered and those that have been recorded by other artists.

There are two distinct phases of her career, with Ike Turner and without. To focus on just the cover songs, the first of 27 original songs she recorded as Ike and Tina Turner was “A Fool in Love” written by Ike Turner and released in 1960. It still blows me away when I listen to this song, there are 13 versions making it their third most covered song. The second is “Nutbush City Limits” with 41 versions and then the iconic “River Deep – Mountain High” has 112 versions. Written by the Brill Building phenom writers Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector it was released in May of 1966.

We see this time and time again, yet another great song that did not chart well in North America, “River Deep – Mountain High” only reached #88 on Billboard and #62 in Canada. The European listeners saw it’s merits right away as it hit #1 in Spain, #3 in the UK and #9 in the Netherlands. Celine Dion, The Animals, Deep Purple and Annie Lenox are just some of the names that have recorded it, however the only other version to hit the charts was one of the greatest collaborations between The Supremes & The Four Tops. Their version peaked at # 7 on the Best Selling Soul Singles chart and #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. The original with Tina’s trademark power vocals is in the Grammy Hall of Fame, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of songs that shaped Rock and Roll and listed on Rolling Stone Magazines 500 Greatest songs.

When we look at Tina’s solo career, there are 26 of her original songs that have been recorded by others. “Goldeneye” from the James Bond movie in 1996 has been covered 44 times. The song was written by The Edge and Bono and with Tina’s amazing performance it remains one of the top Bond songs of all time. Another movie song, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” was from Mad Max, in which she also starred. Written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle there are 36 versions of the song that hit #2 on Billboard.

The next song has 28 versions and was written by Mark Knopfler. “Private Dancer” was released in 1984 and reached #7 on Billboard. To round out the top five, next we have “Don’t Turn Around” with 10 versions and “Steamy Windows” has 7.

While she covered several songs with Ike from artists such as James Brown, Robert Johnson and Sly and the Family Stone it was “Proud Mary” that produced the biggest hit reaching #4 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the R&B chart in 1971. The song was written by John Fogarty and originally recorded by Credence Clearwater Revival in 1969. The original charted #2 on Billboard but it would be the 41st rendition of the song and a new arrangement by Ike and Tina that won a Grammy Award in 1972 for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group.

In the same way Aretha Franklin transformed “Respect” by Otis Redding, Tina’s performance on this song elevates it to a new level. It’s easy to understand why many thought this was an original song, and in many ways it is.

As a solo artist Tina recorded 110 cover songs, too many to talk about today but I can give you some of the more notable. Chronological order seems the best way for me to handle this, she would chart #26 in 1983 with Al Greens “Let’s Stay Together”, in 1984 it was “Better Be Good” that hit #5. While Tina was the first to release her 1984 #1 hit “What’s Love Got To Do With It” it was recorded a month earlier by the UK Quartet known as Bucks Fizz but it was not released until 2000. This song had sat around for years and was offered to many artists including Donna Summer.

Tina’s last two cover songs of note were; the Iggy Pop song “Tonight” that she recorded with the co-writer, David Bowie in 1984 and in 1990 with Rod Stewart, “It Takes Two” originally by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston.

My she rest in peace. Thanks for the music Tina.

References: 1,2,3,4

12 thoughts on “Tina Turner, a Cover Story

  1. I saw her in 2000 with Joe Cocker opening. She did Help!…just beautiful by slowing it down and it worked.
    The song that she wrote that I liked the best was Nutbush City Limits…I think Bob Seger covered it also.
    I’m so glad she managed to get away from Ike and make that comeback. If anyone deserved a giant comeback…she did. Wonderful write up Randy. I can’t believe she was in her 80s…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t know some of the songs that are very closely associated with Tina Turner like “Private Dancer” and “GoldenEye” have been covered by so many other artists!

    Tina was an amazing lady, a great vocalist and, perhaps most of all, an incredible performer – one of the most energetic I’ve seen to date!

    As I said to somebody who commented on my commemorative post about Tina today, any tune that got the “Tina Turner treatment” was automatically elevated – a quality similar to Joe Cocker. Tina could have sung the phone book, and it would have sounded great!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was always amazed ‘River Deep’ sunk like a stone in the States. It had everything going for it but, nope. She could sing anything; I was reading about her and listened to her version of ‘Help,’ another song she, if not owning it, put her stamp on. Hard to do that with a Beatles tune.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Charts are a funny thing for sure. She really does nail it on some of her covers, I agree Help sounds completely different, then there The Best, it’s her version I hear in my head not Bonnie Tyler.

      Liked by 1 person

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