September 1, 1984 was a huge day for legendary R&B singer Tina Turner. That was the day she celebrated her first and only No. 1 song on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” For how she got there, we have to go back.
From 1960 to 1975, she and her husband Ike scored 20 Hot 100 hits, six of those reaching the Top 40, and their biggest hit being their soulful cover of the 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival hit, “Proud Mary.” Ike and Tina’s 1971 cover reached No. 4, just below the No. 2 original by CCR.
Ike Turner had a well-known cocaine problem, which not only affected his and Tina’s music career, but their marriage as well. Tina left her abusive husband in 1976, and by 1978, Tina divorced Ike in both marriage and music. Between 1977 and 1983, she performed solo on a number of variety shows, and also with artists like Rod Stewart, Kim Carnes, Chuck Berry and The Rolling Stones. And, at the insistence of David Bowie, she picked up a singles record deal with Capitol Records in 1983.
In November 1983, she released her cover of Al Green’s classic “Let’s Stay Together.” The cover debuted on the Hot 100 in January 1984, became her first charting hit in eight years, and her first Top 40 hit since 1973. “Let’s Stay Together” peaked at No. 26 in late March 1984, reached No. 3 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart, and spent two weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart. It was also a Top 10 hit in the U.K., Belgium, Finland, Holland and New Zealand.
The success of “Let’s Stay Together” prompted Capitol to reconsider their deal with Tina, and offered her a three-album deal, asking for an album ASAFP. That album (and next single) helped Tina become the incredible comeback story of 1984, maybe of the entire decade.
The result was her fifth studio album, PRIVATE DANCER, which was released in late May 1984. The second single from PRIVATE DANCER was released in advance of the album, on May 1, 1984: “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”
Written by Terry Britten of Manchester, England, and Graham Lyle of Scotland, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” was actually first offered to Cliff Richard (or, as I call him, the Elvis of the U.K.), but it never materialized. It was then offered to Pittsburg R&B singer, Phyllis Hyman, who was interested, but the head of Arista Records, Clive Davis, for some reason wouldn’t allow her to do it. From there, it was offered to Donna Summer, who had it for a couple of years but didn’t do anything with it, and just months before Tina recorded her version, the British Pop group Bucks Fizz were offered the song. They did record the song but when Tina recorded her version first, their version was not released until the year 2000 (on a reissue of one of their albums).
“What’s Love Got To Do With It” took less than three weeks after its release to debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, entering the chart at No. 92. It reached the Top 40 in late June, and on this date (9.1) in 1984, it spent the first of its three weeks at No. 1. The song stayed on the Hot 100 more than half a year, and nearly outlasted three Hot 100 singles from another act also enjoying a comeback that year – The Jacksons. At the time, 44-year-old Tina Turner was the oldest female solo recording artist to reach No. 1 on the Hot 100 (that record is now held by Cher, with her 1999 dance hit, “Believe”).
It was a massive hit around the globe as well, reaching No. 1 in Australia and Canada, and the Top 10 in the U.K., Austria, Germany, Holland, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden and where Tina calls home today, Switzerland.
And the accolades didn’t stop there. “What’s Love Got To Do With It” was the second-biggest U.S. single of 1984 (only behind Prince’s “When Doves Cry”), it received three Grammy Awards (including Record and Song Of The Year), an MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video, it inspired a 1993 biopic of the same name (partly based on her 1986 autobiography, I, TINA), and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2012.
After “What’s Love Got To Do With It” reached No. 1, three more songs from PRIVATE DANCER reached the Top 40, two of them the Top 10. From there, she scored eight more Top 40 hits between 1984 and 1993, three of those reaching the Top 10 as well.
For my 2011 Valentine’s show on STUCK IN THE 80s, my little 20-year-old 80s music program on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine, Tina’s hit inspired the title of the show: “What’s Love Got To Do With It – Non-Traditional Love Songs,” starting of course with her No. 1 classic. The show featured songs like “What Is Love” by Howard Jones, “Love Is A Battlefield” by Pat Benatar, “Ever Fallen In Love” by The Buzzcocks, Joe Jackson’s “Fools In Love,” The Time’s “Jungle Love” and the Red Version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” the brilliant 1988 cover by the NYC Avant-Rock band, Swans.
These days, Tina Turner is now an official citizen of Switzerland, where she has lived for many years, has been married for three years to someone she was seeing for the 27 years prior to that, and she has occasionally referred to herself as a Buddhist-Baptist, though in an interview earlier this year, she said she considers herself a Buddhist.
Though I’ve never seen her perform, I’ve always had a lot of respect for Tina Turner, and after divorcing Ike (who died in 2007), and especially after David Bowie indirectly helped her make music history, I feel like she’s really living the life she truly wants to live. Tina, who turns 77 in November, has definitely earned it.
As for today’s “song of the day,” when I think about it, the title “What’s Love Got To Do With It” is kind of a contradiction in terms. I mean, I don’t know anyone who DOESN’T love that song. So, in terms of the song and the remarkable Tina Turner herself, I’d say the answer to the question, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” is, well, “everything…”