Tina Turner in five covers

Tina Turner
Tina Turner / Gary Merrin/GettyImages
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Tina Turner was the queen of rock ‘n’ roll, but I also think of her as the last soul survivor of another era in rock. Tina Turner harkened back to before the age of the singer/songwriter. Most of her songs were written by others, but she wasn’t merely a covers artist. The way she reinterpreted the songs that had been recorded before, making them her own, was an act of creation on par with writing songs. To understand Tina Turner, listen to her covers. 

"Proud Mary" (originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Tina Turner’s career began when she joined Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm in 1957 at 18, and Ike Turner was involved in her career in one way or another for almost the next twenty years. Listening to the material credited to Ike and Tina Turner, or The Ike and Tina Revue, can feel a little icky, given his abuse towards her. As great as that music is, it’s hard not to wonder if the powerhouse voice on those tracks was a willing participant. 

Despite being credited to Ike and Tina Turner, "Proud Mary" is Tina Turner’s song. Ike didn’t care for Creedence Clearwater revival’s original, but Tina insisted they record it. It was their first big hit (their second, Nutbush City Limits, was one of the few songs Tina wrote). Turner’s version of "Proud Mary" is a force of nature, described by The Atlantic as having “all the fury of James Brown, all the grit of Janis Joplin, all the swagger of the Rolling Stones. But in the end, it’s Turner’s soulful ecstasy that sells it.”  

The seductive slow-burn intro slowly gives way to an overwhelmingly intense R‘n’B explosion. "Proud Mary" is the first song to make the case for Tina Turner as a singular icon.