Tina Turner’s death shook the world of music. Her legacy is one that can never be duplicated.
As a leading performer across many genres, Tina Turner was many things: an enigma among enigmas, an icon among icons, the Queen of Rock, and perhaps most importantly—a survivor. Her resilience as a survivor of abuse and her resurrection as a groundbreaking, genre-defying artist is a testament to her strength of character and the enormity of her talent.
A vocal powerhouse, equally adept at stirring rhythm & blues songs or full-throttle rock, Tina Turner possessed a voice and stage presence that the world had never seen before—nor ever will again. With her recent death, it’s nearly impossible to choose which of her timeless classics to include on a list of her greatest hits. We’ve rounded up the best songs that defined the trailblazing superstar from a catalog that spans decades, cultures, races, and trends.
“River Deep, Mountain High” (1966)
As Tina Turner’s music grew in popularity after leading the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, so did the call for producers interested in working with her unique voice. Phil Spector pursued her with a vengeance, keen to incorporate her vocals into his singular wall of sound approach to production. The finished product is nothing short of a magnificent rock opera. Arguably the most iconic song from Spector’s catalog, “River Deep Mountain High” showcased Tina’s voice in a new light, taking listeners to the depths and heights of her powerful instrument.
“Proud Mary” (1971)
The true measure of an iconic singer is the ability to take any song—no matter who performed it before you—and redefine it. Just as Aretha had before her, Tina Turner proved she had the power to rewrite the history books when she and Ike Turner covered the Creedence Clearwater Revival song. Thanks in large part to Ike’s arrangement that began at a murmur and rocketed to a blast, Tina matched the music from chant to measured shriek, increasing the intensity of “Proud Mary” and elevating it from a country hymn known to some to an all-out rock assault known by the world.
“Let’s Stay Together” (1983)
After leaving Ike and pursuing a solo career, Tina Turner released some of her best songs, keeping the lights on with standing-room-only performances on the road and in Las Vegas. Her cover of Al Green’s classic song “Let’s Stay Together” woke up the music community, reminding both fans and fellow musicians that she was still out there doing her singular thing. Instead of settling for a direct interpretation, Turner again put her own spin on the song, changing the dynamics, flipping the verses, and rearranging them to perfection to complement her smooth, sultry delivery.
“What’s Love Got To Do With It” (1984)
Many career artists may start to slow down in their 40s, but for Tina Turner, her career was just getting started—and even forging new paths. Leaving Ike behind, Tina Turner staged a massive comeback with “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” a pop song tinged with pain and defiance. Rising above the chorus and accentuating each note in each verse, Tina invites her fans to follow her on a new journey wherever it may lead, with her voice serving as a beacon of light. Unofficially one of her theme songs, it is the song that brought her a new audience and a newfound respect in the industry.
“The Best” (1989)
Originally recorded by Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler the year before, Tina Turner yet again recalibrated an existing song by turning it into a powerhouse anthem. This one resonates as one of the most popular in her catalog. “The Best” encompasses love across all directions, with listeners wondering if Tina is singing to a new lover or to a new life. Either way, she had them singing along.
No one knew what to expect from Bono and The Edge when they were called into action to collaborate with Tina Turner for a new James Bond theme song, but the result is considered by many to be one of her standout tracks in a catalog that’s overflowing with them. With “GoldenEye,” the Queen of Rock took listeners back to her roots, just to snatch them back to the present and beyond. A masterful track from purring start to roaring finish, the strings bring the intrigue that a Bond movie deserves, making the song one of the most beloved in the franchise’s history.
An Icon Now Rests
With her recent death at 83 years of age, Tina Turner has left us, but her legacy is a blueprint that defied the odds and circumvented tradition. What will always live on is her voice and her artistry—a supernatural supernova is finally at peace among the heavens.
Rest in power, Queen.
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