Ike and Tina Turner: The legendary story gets the musical treatment

Ike and Tina Turner: Workin' Together cover. Photo: Liberty Records
Ike and Tina Turner: Workin’ Together cover. Photo: Liberty Records

Tina Turner is the queen of rock ‘n’ roll, one of the world’s most loved live performers and has one of the most documented of personal lives in rock history.

Soul Sister – a musical based on the highs and lows of Ike and Tina Turner’s love life – is launching its UK tour on Monday.

I appreciate Ike and Tina’s music – that’s what I want to learn about more from now on – the artistry, the craft, the musicianship. I don’t want to explore their personal lives any further than it already has been. Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett did marvellous jobs in the 1993 movie What’s Love Got To Do With It.

The bio-musical stars Chris Tummings as Ike Turner; he told the BBC Breakfast news show last year that Ike Turner was a complex character: “I guess I’m trying to show both sides, the positive and negative. The positive being that he was an absolute genius as a musician”.

The talent of Ike Turner is undeniable. He was a multi-instrumentalist, song-writer, arranger and producer from Clarksdale, Mississippi. Growing up he trained as a boogie woogie pianist and he played with pioneering Mississippi Delta bluesmen. Sometimes he’s given credit as one of the forefathers of rock ‘n’ roll for writing and performing on “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston in 1951.

He was never a front-man; his strength was in production and musical direction (he would punish band members for missing a note) and he directed Tina’s energetic presence to be the focal point of their performances. Not that she could be outshined on any stage, but he never denied her influence on him. He named his music studio “Bolic Sound” – built with the money from their success – after Tina’s real name Anna Mae Bullock.

The Ike and Tina Turner Revue burst onto the mainstream music scene in 1960 with the soulful “A Fool In Love” which Ike wrote. A year later, “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” gave them their first Grammy nomination; both were million-sellers.

Just watch this furious medley of these two hits:

Tina is vibrant as ever and Ike supports her in the background as she slinks on the stage.

Then watch a clip of Tina Turner forty years later, still selling out tours in her seventies, performing in heels with the energy of an up-and-coming artist, crane and all!

Her signature colours: black, red or gold remain fierce on her and she can recycle mini-dresses or even her Mad Max outfit and still look good and perform with the vitality and vivaciousness that brought her mainstream recognition.

So surely watching someone play Tina Turner live would be like watching an impersonator, no where close to matching Tina herself? Emi Wokoma has the tough job of performing as Tina in the musical. She has been credited as the best part of the show, which does focus on the music.

If anything, the show is appreciated because classics like “Simply the Best”, “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, “Proud Mary”, “Private Dancer” and “River Deep Mountain High”, should all be celebrated. Even though it’s hard to imagine anyone performing them to Tina’s standard, (cue Beyoncé comparisons here) at least the replication of Tina’s outfits are sure to be stunning.

Iconic Dress Style: Tina Turner in gold fringe mini. Photo: Reuters
Iconic Dress Style: Tina Turner in gold fringe mini. Photo: Reuters

And Tina should be celebrated; a strong, defiant woman – it was her interesting raspy soul voice on the demo for “A Fool In Love” that created dollar signs in record executives eyes – the voice which Phil Spector wanted for lead vocal on “River Deep, Mountain High”; it was her brazen attitude and raw talent at 17 that blew the scepticism of Ike Turner away when she told him to listen to her sing – and she can still blow a crowd away today.

In her seventies, Tina Turner still delivers pitch-perfect vocals from growling, to sultry to soaring as she performs like lightning in heels with limitless charisma and energy.

Her 2008 album Tina! contained her greatest hits, live recordings and two new songs.

“It Would Be A Crime” is a feel-good up-tempo track from the album, exuding all the hope and light and energy that Tina’s body of work represents.

She is also involved in a charity called Children Beyond which promote peace and spirituality.

So anything that salutes Tina Turner must be a good thing.

Soul Sister will launch its U.K. tour on January 14, 2013 , at the Glasgow’s King’s Theatre. See the tour date’s here.

Ike and Tina Turner covered “Proud Mary”, originally by the roots band Creedence Clearwater Revival and which had also been covered by Solomon Burke the previous year. Along with their drummer Soko Richardson, Ike and Tina rearranged this tune complete with their own distinctive intro. Watch here:

Tina wrote “Nutbush City Limits” as an ode to her hometown of Nutbush, Tenessee. Ike plays a catchy wah-wah guitar over the synth funk track and there’s a really interesting Moog solo brass section. Legend has it that Marc Bolan actually played the guitar, but there’s no disputing that this is one of Tina’s finest of vocal deliveries.

Tina Turner’s “GoldenEye” stands as a classic James Bond theme from 1995, Tina’s vocals dramatically soar to the song’s climax. It was written especially for her by U2’s Bono. Watch her perform it in 2009 here:

Simply the Best was originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler. Turner brought her magic to it; not only did it become a massive single world-wide, but it has been used by TV commercials to sports events continually since its release in 1989.

Tina’s Classic “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, has been sampled notably in rap by Ja Rule, Fat Joe and Ashanti on their track “What’s Love” and previously by Warren G and singer Adina Howard. Warren and Adina’ featured on the original soundtrack to Jackie Chan’s Supercop 3 and their interpretation waxed lyrical on record industry politics. Watch here:


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