It seems almost impossible now, but when this album came out 30 years ago, Tina Turner was little more than a Vegas-style disco act that played in hotel ballrooms, a woman who’s glory days were a long and distant memory of some truly amazing high points with her ex-husband, Rock & Roll pioneer Ike Turner.
No one saw the massive comeback in 1984 coming, including her label, Capitol. She was primarily travelling to the U.K. appearing as a guest vocalist on then-trendy dance singles.
After her first hit in over a decade, the surprise top 30 U.S. Billboard chart success of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”, Capitol greenlighted the production of an entire album, and they wanted it quickly, thinking this would be some flash-in-the-pan gimmick to exploit on what they expected to a brief final chapter to the singer’s career.
Private Dancer was recorded in roughly six weeks with contributions from U.K. musicians old (Jeff Beck, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits) and new (The Fixx, Heaven 17). It ended up selling over 20 million copies worldwide, winning a slew of Grammy awards and charting three singles in the U.S. top 10. The album itself peaked at #3 on the chart, behind releases by artists (Prince and Springsteen) who were still in diapers when the former Annie Mae Bullock from tiny Nutbush, TN, started a professional music career.
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The production is slick and up-to-date without sounding pushy, and has aged well. Of course, the real star is Ms. Turner, who herself who was 44 when this album was made, or approximately twice the age of contemporary hitmaker Madonna at the time. Her voice belies a rough-hewn, slightly battle-worn, “I’m still here and 20 times more fabulous and focused” vibe to it.
The tracks run from love and loss (the #1 hit “What’s Love Got to Do With It”, “Show Some Repect” and “Better Be Good to Me”), songs about surviving (“I Might Have Been Queen”), soul covers (the aforementioned Green track and a truly killer version of Anne Peebles “I Can’t Stand the Rain”), classic rock covers (Bowie’s “1984” and the Beatles “Help”) and even prostitution (the title track).
Of course, it didn’t hurt that on the album cover and in music videos she became, for the second time in her career, the black woman that every white boy fantasized about. It was during this phase she also became the MILF gold standard.
So, when you see those internet memes about success, hard work, believing in yourself, personal triumph, positive attitude and virtue of heart, what you are basically reading are the same personal values that Buddhist Tina Turner professed and exemplified when making this record.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Last Tycoon the following: “There are no second acts in American lives.” Of course, he never met our birthday lady. Happy 75th Tina. You’ve earned it.
Love to you all.
originally published 26 November 2014