The most famous example, of course, is her and Ike’s reimagining — “cover” almost seems like too reverent a word — of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s mid-tempo Southern rocker “Proud Mary.” The 1970 recording begins with Turner’s declaration that, despite what audiences might want from them, “we never ever do nothin’ nice and easy.” She then issues a warning, as if that galloping tempo change in the middle of the song would have been too shocking without one: “We’re gonna take the beginning of this song and do it easy, but then we’re gonna do the finish rough. That’s the way we do ‘Proud Mary.’”
That was also the spirit behind her versions of “Help!,” “Come Together” and “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” — to name just a few of the Beatles songs she positively Tina-fied. Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones got the treatment, too, and so did “Louie Louie,” with a sultry, little-known rendition which — I’m not even making this up — louielouie.net (“The blog for all things Louie Louie”) called “one of the essential Louie Louie recordings!” with some all-caps emphasis. Amen to that.
Tina Turner was a seismic, once-in-a-lifetime musical force, but I don’t need to tell you that; I’ll let this playlist do the talking. And I’ll let my colleague Wesley Morris, who wrote an appraisal worthy of the queen, do some of it too: “They’re saying she was 83? Nobody’s buying that. The ingredients made her seem immortal. For seven decades of making music, it all sizzled in her. That energy. It shot from her — from her feet, thighs, hands, arms, shoulders, out of her hair, out of her mouth.”
Listen along on Spotify as you read.
1. “Come Together”
Released as a single in December 1969, just two months after the Beatles’ own version, this soulful take on the leadoff track from “Abbey Road” shows off the raspy intensity and melodic control of Turner’s voice. (Listen on YouTube)
2. “Honky Tonk Women”
In late 1969, Ike and Tina toured with the Rolling Stones — an opening gig forever immortalized in an unforgettable scene in the documentary “Gimme Shelter,” when Turner unleashes a transcendent “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” Around the time of the tour, the duo started playing their own revamped “Honky Tonk Women,” in which Tina flips the titular character from object to subject. Especially in Stones songs about sexual conquests, Mick Jagger wasn’t exactly known for writing nuanced female characters (“Some Girls,” ahem), but here, brilliantly, Tina turns mildly chauvinistic source material into an impassioned demand for equal partnership: “I’m a honky tonk woman,” she sings, hungrily. “Gimme, gimme, gimme a honky tonk man.” (Listen on YouTube)