Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 10:34 a.m.
It's been three years since Tina Turner came out of retirement to play a farewell tour, and whether that will be a one-off series of gigs or (hopefully) lead to another Tina return remains to be seen. And despite the fact that she turns an amazing 72 today, it's best not to underestimate her powers of revival. After all, she's reinvented herself before, and the fact that she's now among rock's elders shouldn't preclude her from doing it again. As anyone who's seen her will attest, Tina's dazzling performances and, well, those legs that power her could easily put those half her age to shame.
Born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, Tennessee (the
town that would eventually become the namesake for one of her biggest
early hits), Tina overcame a difficult childhood and went on to become
one of rock's most indelible icons. Her marriage and professional
partnership with late blues singer and guitarist Ike Turner
(credited by many as one of those who helped R&B successfully segue
into rock 'n' roll courtesy of his song "Rocket 88") gave her a
memorable first incarnation courtesy of the many hits that would propel
the duo toward musical immortality -- "Nutbush City Limits," a remake of
John Fogerty's "Proud Mary," and, most notably, "River Deep, Mountain
High," produced by the legendary Phil Spector. The group toured
consistently, playing both massive stadium gigs alongside the likes of
the Rolling Stones to crappy nightclubs for all-black audiences, and yet
the fervor and frenzy of their stage show made them one of the most
dynamic working bands of the '60s and early '70s.
In the midst of that success, Ike's violent behavior toward his wife became increasingly more volatile. Tina attempted an overdose in 1968 and finally walked out on him after he beat her viciously prior to a gig in Dallas in 1976. Two years later, they divorced. During this time, she converted to Buddhism, which, she said, helped her cope with this tumultuous time.
Faced with the prospect of a solo career, Tina found the '70s quite daunting. An appearance as the Acid Queen in the film version of the Who's Tommy notwithstanding, she all but faded from the rock radar. But her gradual segue from R&B to rock finally paid off in 1983 when her synth-infused cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" (from her comeback album Private Dancer) propelled her back to the top of the charts. That led to a string of hits ("What's Love Got to Do With It," "Private Dancer," "Better Be Good to Me," "We Don't Need Another Hero"), a best-selling biography ("I, Tina"), sell-out shows (a concert in Rio De Janeiro brought her into the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest audience ever assembled), occasional film roles, and celebrity associations that would continue unabated for the next couple of decades.
Those successes gave her a string of distinctions she likely never previously imagined. Her combined album and single sales have been tallied at nearly 180 million copies worldwide, while her ticket sales have made her the best-selling solo performer in musical history. Grammy nods and nominations, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Kennedy Center Honors, Golden Globe honors, an NAACP Image Award, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame further affirmed her storied stature. Tennessee State Route 19 between Brownsville and Nutbush is now known as "Tina Turner Highway," while the film based on her book What's Love Got to Do With It earned Academy Award consideration. Tina herself says she wouldn't see the film. "Why would I want to see Ike Turner beat me up again?" she told one reporter. "I haven't dwelled on it; it's all in the past, where it belongs."
(Ironically, it may have been her duet with Mick Jagger during the 1985 Live Aid extravaganza that earned her equal notoriety. When Mick tore away part of her skirt to reveal a skimpy leotard, it may have been the first actual incident of a wardrobe malfunction.)
Tina's been rather quiet in recent years, no doubt enjoying life at her villa in Switzerland. And we're happy for her. But we still hope that age won't deter her from shaking and sashaying that still-youthful figure. So if you're reading this, Tina, we'd like to assure you that you're not the only oldie-goldie over the age of 70 who's still making music and entertaining the masses.
Here's a list of other septuagenarians who haven't let age slow them down:
Paul Kantner (70) and Jorma Kaukonen (71) -- For that matter, most of the other members of the Jefferson Airplane are around the same age, including Grace Slick, who's now 72.
Simon and Garfunkel (both age 70) -- When they sing "Old Friends," the emphasis is more on "old" than "friends."
Bill Wyman (75) -- Former bassist for the Rolling Stones, he's still actively involved with his band the Rhythm Kings (holiday shoppers, check out their new five-CD set, Collector's Edition!)
Charlie Watts (70) -- Rolling Stones drummer. For the record, the rest of the band is also approaching the big 7-0.
Bob Dylan (70) -- Although he's still crooning "Like a Rolling Stone," he may be thinking it's time for a Rolling Wheelchair.
Leonard Cohen (77) -- Wow -- he may be as old as your grandfather, but we'll bet he's twice as cool!
Aaron Neville (70) -- Aaron's still as soulful as ever.
George Clinton (70) -- Likewise, George is still as funky and freaky as ever.
Tony Bennett (85) -- A master of the smooth croon, Tony shows no signs of slowing down and likely never will. Let's hope we're all as active as he is at that age.
Willie Nelson (78) -- On the road again and again and still toking away.
Chick Corea (70) -- Acclaimed jazz keyboardist, he makes music for the ages, at all ages.
Eric Burdon (70) -- The former frontman for the Animals keeps on snarling.
Joan Baez (70) -- More mature but just as sweet.
David Gates (71) -- Former frontman for the band Bread may still be singing "I Want to Make It With You," but let's hope he's thinking age-appropriate.
Ringo Starr (70) -- A Beatle, age 70? Here's proof positive that the '60s generation has finally segued into the 70s after all!
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