Tina Turner: A rock icon who was much more than ‘Simply The Best’ - Hindustan Times
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Tina Turner: A rock icon who was much more than ‘Simply The Best’

May 26, 2023 04:21 AM IST

Tina Turner breathed her last on May 24 at her home near Zurich, Switzerland. She was 83.

She was “Simply the Best”, “We Don’t Need Another Hero”, and “What's Love Got To With It?”.

Tina Turner died Tuesday, after battling a long illness at the age of 83 (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)(AP)
Tina Turner died Tuesday, after battling a long illness at the age of 83 (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)(AP)

But there was so much more to rock legend Tina Turner. For a certain generation, she will always be The Acid Queen, a sobriquet she earned for her role in Ken Russell’s 1975 rock opera Tommy. She played an erratic prostitute dealing in LSD; she sang the soundtrack version of the Pete Townshend song.

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If your child ain't all he should be now
This girl will put him right
I'll show him what he could be now
Just give me one night
I'm the gypsy, the acid queen
Pay me before I start
I'm the gypsy and I'm guaranteed
To mend his aching heart

She sang in her gravelly, guttural voice.

The original was sung, memorably, by Townshend of The Who in 1969, for the band’s studio album Tommy. Turner’s version was arguably wilder; the image of her in the film, with her cigarette holder and red cape, leading The Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey out of a bar, is the one that stuck.

The film itself was a wild product of its time: Based on the album Tommy, it told the story of a “psychosomatically deaf, mute and blind” young man (Daltrey), who becomes a pinball champion and a religious leader. The star-studded ensemble cast featured Townshend, Eric Clapton, Elton John, and Jack Nicholson.

In 1975, Turner also released an album of her own titled Acid Queen. It held a fresh version of that song, and her takes on the Rolling Stones hit Under My Thumb, Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, and Baby Get It On, that last one with Ike Turner, her husband at the time.

While Turner appeared as herself in a range of movies and music documentaries, Tommy was one of three in which she played a fictional character. The other two were Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), starring Mel Gibson; she played Aunty Entity, the ruthless ruler of Bartertown. And Last Action Hero (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; 1993), where she appeared in a cameo as the mayor of Los Angeles.

She sang as Aunty Entity too, belting out the soundtracks One of the Living and We Don’t Need Another Hero, singing the latter while wearing the iconic chainmail gown that was the costume of her character.

Turner, born Anna Mae Bullock in rural Tennessee, died on Wednesday, aged 83.

As a child, she sang in her church choir, and began her career with Ike Turner, a musician eight years her senior. Legend has it he was unsure of her at first. What convinced him, the legend goes, was her rendition of the BB King blues ballad, You Know I Love You.

Ike produced her first single, Boxtop, in 1958. She was 19, and was credited as Little Ann.

Her first song as Tina Turner was the 1960 A Fool in Love. She and Ike were reportedly a couple by now, and would marry in 1962. It would be a troubled marriage that lasted 16 years.

Her combination of gravel and vulnerability, talent and pain were among the things that drew crowds to concerts, and had albums fly off the shelves. Ike’s best-known songs would be the ones they sang together: Baby Get It On; River Deep - Mountain High; a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary.

In movies and interviews, she would later talk about his violence. “He didn’t like that he had to depend on me,” she once said. “I had a temper. I don’t regret nothing,” he would later say.

She would eventually seek peace in Buddhism, and in Switzerland, where she died.

In a strange coincidence, Wednesday was also rock icon Bob Dylan’s birthday (he is now 82).

Trivia enthusiasts looking for more links between the two could turn to the song Murder Most Foul, from his 2020 album Rough and Rowdy Ways. Its lyrics refer to a range of icons, Turner among them.

Tommy, can you hear me? go those lines; I’m the Acid Queen

I'm riding in a long, black Lincoln limousine…
Heading straight on in to the afterlife…
Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free.

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