It’s hard to believe that Tina Turner is gone. I remember feeling the same way after Prince died – I liked thinking that he was always out there, somewhere, working on music. Not that I was expecting new music from Tina – it was enough to see her pop up in occasional interviews as she enjoyed retirement in her Swiss castle.
What more can you say about the queen? So much is being written and discussed, I should just shut up and walk away. But…
With the exception of the song “Nutbush City Limits”, Tina is not remembered as a songwriter. But she did have a knack for choosing excellent material and putting her indelible stamp on it. After hearing Tina’s take on a song, you could be forgiven if you forget that “Proud Mary” was a Creedence Clearwater Revival tune, or that “Let’s Stay Together” is Al Green’s song. “I Can’t Stand The Rain” was a 1974 hit for Ann Peebles, and Bonnie Tyler had a minor hit with “Simply The Best” the year before Tina recorded it.
That said, there are some interesting covers that have flown under the radar or fallen through the cracks. Here are some of them.
UPDDATE: The New York Times published their own article on Tina’s covers the same day this was posted, but other than the Stones/Beatles/Led Zeppelin cuts, none of the tracks listed below were included.
1) Tina Sings Dusty Springfield: “Just A Little Lovin'” / “Every Day I Have To Cry” – Dusty Springfield’s version of the Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil song “Just A Little Lovin'” was the lead track from the classic 1969 Dusty In Memphis LP. Tina’s version is from her 1979 solo LP Love Explosion, which was not released in the U.S.
“Every Day I Have To Cry” was originally a minor hit for Steve Alaimo in 1962, and memorably covered by Dusty on her 1964 I Only Want To Be With You LP. Tina’s version is from the Phil Spector produced River Deep, Mountain High LP (1966).
2) Tina Sings Led Zeppelin: “Whole Lotta Love” – This Led Zeppelin cover was released as a single from Tina’s second solo LP, 1975’s Acid Queen. The NY Times article on Tina’s cover songs describes this version as “disco-inflected” but also “slowed down.” To paraphrase Led Zep: It makes me wonder (what they were listening to.)
3) Tina Sings Prince: “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” / “Baby I’m A Star” – Tina’s cover of “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” was recorded live in 1984 and featured as a B-side on different singles from the Private Dancer LP, depending on the territory.
Tina’s version of “Baby I’m a Star” was omnipresent for a season in 2000, as she sang it in Target commercials while they were sponsoring her tour. It was also released on All That Glitters, a greatest hits CD only available at Target. And then… it was gone.
4) Tina sings Linda Ronstadt: “Long Long Time” – Earlier this year, Linda Ronstadt’s definitive 1970 version of this Gary White song was introduced to a new generation via the HBO series The Last Of Us. Tina recorded her version in 1974 for her first solo LP, Tina Turns The Country On. Rolling Stone recently wrote about this forgotten gem. Although the LP was not a commercial success, it did garner Tina a Grammy nomination.
5) Tina Sings Marvin Gaye: “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” – There are a few versions of Tina singing Marvin Gaye’s classic Motown hit. The song was often part of her live repertoire. This live version from the Ike & Tina Turner Review is circa 1970:
Thirty years later, Tina recorded a dance version of the song for her Twenty Four Seven LP. Unfortunately the song was pulled from the final release of the album:
Also – just for funzies, here’s Tina singing with Marvin Gaye on Shindig! March 25, 1965 doing a medley of “Money (That’s What I Want)” and “I’ll Be Doggone.”
6) Tina Sings Stevie Wonder: “Living For The City” / “Higher Ground” – These two Stevie Wonder tracks from his classic 1973 Innervisions LP were covered the following year by Ike & Tina on their Sweet Rhode Island Red LP. The tracks later turned up on several compilations as the material from this period was often repackaged and re-released.
7) Tina Sings Etta James: “All I Could Do Was Cry” – Motown founder Berry Gordy was a co-writer on this song, which was written for Etta James in 1960. Ike & Tina included their version on the Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show LP (1964). Tina’s 4-minute monologue in the middle of the song is epic, recounting the wedding of the man she loves as he marries someone else, building to a crescendo with “their friends throwing rice all over their heads.” This overlooked camp classic was later featured on the 2007 CD A Date With John Waters.
8) Tina Sings Elton John: “Philadelphia Freedom” – This Ike & Tina Turner track was recorded in the mid-1970’s, just before Tina left. Ike later included it on his 1980 LP The Edge and on a 1984 Tina Turner EP titled Mini, among other repackages of their 70’s output.
9) Tina Does Disco: “Shame, Shame, Shame” – Like “Philadelphia Freedom,” this cover of the 1975 dance hit for Shirley & Co. was featured on Ike’s The Edge LP, Tina’s Mini EP, and numerous other budget collections.
She also memorably performed the song with Cher on her variety show in 1975:
10) Tina Sings The Temptations: “Ball of Confusion”– Tina’s version of “Ball Of Confusion” was the gateway to the second (or third?) act of her career. Recorded with B.E.F., aka British Electric Foundation for their 1982 album Music of Quality and Distinction Volume One, the song became a top 5 hit in Norway. Capital Records took notice and signed her to the label. The resulting LP was Private Dancer, and the rest is history.
11) Tina Sings The Rolling Stones: “Honky Tonk Woman” / “Under My Thumb” / “Let’s Spend The Night Together” – Well of course Tina covered The Stones. She taught moves to Jagger. Tina & Mick were always joining each other onstage, and although she never recorded proper versions of “Jumping Jack Flash” or “It’s Only Rock And Roll‘, they were frequently on her concert setlists.
Ike & Tina’s studio version of “Honky Tonk Woman” was featured on their 1970 LP Come Together, and was also the b-side to the single of the title track:
“Under My Thumb” – A track from the 1975 Acid Queen LP:
“Let’s Spend The Night Together” – Also from her1975 Acid Queen LP:
12) Tina Sings The Beatles: “Help!” / “Something” / “Get Back” / “Come Together” – Although not as closely associated with The Beatles as with the Rolling Stones, Tina covered several of their songs through the years. Her ballad version of “Help!” was on the international edition of the Private Dancer LP, but not the U.S. version.
Tina’s version of “Something”:
Ike & Tina perform “Get Back” on Beat Club in the UK. The song was included on their 1970 Workin’ Together LP and released as a single in Europe.
“Come Together” was the title track from Ike & Tina’s 1970 LP. The single also featured their version of the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman” as the b-side.
Here’s a Spotify playlist of the available songs above as well as many other covers:
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