Private Dancer

Tina Turner owns one of the great reinvention stories in rock music. She’s one of the few 60’s rock stars who managed to turn the 80’s into her decade. In the 60’s Turner performed with her husband Ike, who was a brilliant musician but a piece of shit human being. Turner was then mainly known for her raw and sexual performance style. She was way, way sexier than the buttoned-up ladies churned out by the Motown machine and never quite enjoyed the same degree of mainstream success. But it’s the Tina Turner of the 80’s, with the insane feathered wigs and huge-shouldered dresses, that most of us know best; she’s one of the great divas of the era. It doesn’t overshadow the fact that she was already a legend in the 60’s; her preexisting legacy just makes her later success more meaningful. It is obviously a very appealing story arc, as Hollywood didn’t fail to notice; woman leaves an abusive marriage, establishes herself as an artist in her own right and becomes more successful than ever before, while the former husband sinks into obscurity. The vindication of Turner’s success as a solo artist is strongly felt both in her work and her presentation of herself as a strong, street-wise woman. Of course, the context of her life also gives her work a great degree of pathos. Songs like Private Dancer and What’s Love Got to Do With It? are good songs without any context and the emotion of Turner’s performance needs no explanation. But the knowledge that she sang those songs after leaving a husband who beat her, burned her with cigarettes and forced her to perform when she was so sick she’d been hospitalized…well, that gives a whole new meaning to a song about being a whore who dances for money.