In the 1960s, Tina Turner wowed audiences with her dynamic, high-energy performances and classic rock and roll hits. Though she reached a significant amount of success in the ‘60s alongside her husband, fellow musician Ike Turner, she was just getting started. After her divorce from Ike, who had a long history of abusive behavior towards Tina, she was finally free to pursue music on her own terms. In the ‘80s, she solidified herself as one of rock’s pioneering figures and one of pop’s most unique and powerful voices.
With a professional career spanning several decades, her hits and releases represent a layered, full-throttle artist who was both gentle and unyielding, and who leaves behind a legendary legacy. Check out our takes on the best Tina Turner songs below.
11. When The Heartache is Over
Featured on her “farewell” album in 1999, it might seem strange we are kicking off this best of Tina Turner list with a song from her final studio record. However, the contents of ‘When The Heartache is Over’ make the tune anything but a goodbye track. If anything it’s the opposite as Turner’s commanding, one-of-a-kind, growling voice sounds as strong as ever. The instrumentation itself yields an uplifting tone in keeping with the theme of new horizons. For her final album, Twenty Four Seven, Turner worked with some of her closest musician friends for the track listing. The pop-heavy ‘When The Heartache is Over’ was written by European producers Graham Stack and John Reid.
10. Private Dancer
The ‘90s represented semi-retirement for Turner from the music industry, but in the ‘80s she was still going strong, releasing hit after hit. One of those was the pensive and emotional ‘Private Dancer,’ which features one of Turner’s most raw, brilliantly wailed vocal performances ever. The sheer gravity of the song’s message meant she would only be able to sing the single with complete abandon. While there’s a raw, unrefined element to it, her delivery is unsurprisingly flawless given her talent and ability. While the song is about an exotic dancer, she actually didn’t realize that was what it was about when she recorded it. Instead, she drew on her complicated, abusive relationship with former husband Ike Turner to relate to the single. The 1984 chart climber features spirited guitar work by the one and only Jeff Beck.
9. I Don’t Wanna Lose You
Turner’s roots lay in ‘60s rock and roll, but in the ‘80s she proved herself to be an unrivaled pop star. ‘I Don’t Want to Lose You’ is one of Tina’s several strong hits from the over the top decade. This one was especially popular in the UK. A romantic power ballad that perfectly pairs her rock roots with a trendy pop foundation, it was written by songwriters Albert Hammond and Graham Lyle. Lyle would go on to pen one of the singer’s biggest tracks ever, which we cover below. Can you guess which one it is?
A moody grooving theme song to a film installment for one of the most iconic cinematic series ever, James Bond, Turner was chosen as the voice for the theme song in 1995. It’s a haunting track, full of classic Bond instrumentation like bold, in your face horn work. Irish artists Bono and The Edge, who head up the band U2, wrote the track with Tina’s vocals in mind. Goldeneye starred Pierce Brosnan as the legendary spy and remains one of the series’ fan-favorite releases.
Recommended: The complete list of 007 theme songs.
7. Let’s Stay Together
Tina’s career could arguably be broken up into two different chapters. The first marked the ‘60s and ‘70s, when she helped define the early rock and roller generation. The second marked what music critics called “One of the greatest comebacks in music history,” when she reinvented herself and leapt back onto the scene in the 1980s. After her divorce from Ike, she didn’t even have a record label. But she pulled herself up by her bootstraps and kept working the club circuit. Eventually, the electronic pop band Heaven 17 came calling from England. They were putting together a compilation album of classic hits, and Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’ was on the list. Turner found herself in the legendary Abbey Road Studios, a studio space fit for the pop/rock legend-in-the-making. Her soulful rendition offered a powerful take on the Green cover, and the wait for another hit was over. It became a top ten UK contender after its release.
Recommended: Check out the Pulp Fiction tracklist to hear the original Al Green version.
6. Nutbush City Limits
A high-powered autobiographical number about the place Turner was born, Nutbush, Tennessee (if the name conjures up images of small town U.S.A., you are on the right track), this was actually the first song Tina ever wrote by herself. It became a huge top 5 hit in the UK, and placed just outside the top 20 in the US. Written while she was still in a relationship with Ike Turner, she didn’t request his help with this one, it was purely a solo songwriting project for the vocalist. It’s amped up rock and roll, soul, and R&B all rolled into one, and it remains one of her most popular songs to date.
5. We Don’t Need Another Hero
Tina Turner’s vocal chops were so powerful, her talent bordered on otherworldly. And she made commanding the world’s biggest stages look easy. When she stormed onto the silver screen in 1985 for her villainous role in the Mad Max film series, she demonstrated her acting chops were no less impressive than her musical abilities. She also provided soundtrack work, and the theme song she released, ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’ was a massive hit. Not only was the film a runaway success, the tune added to her staying power in the ‘80s, proving that at in her mid. 40s and post-divorce from her longtime collaborative partner, she wasn’t even close to being done with her career.
Recommended: Grab your cape and fly over to our songs with hero in the lyrics.
4. River Deep, Mountain High
For one of Turner’s greatest vocal performances ever, we have to go all the way back to Tina’s early days in the music industry to understand the significance of the release of ‘River Deep, Mountain High.’ Released in the mid. ‘60s and featuring her trademark growl (which is oh so satisfying), the single was actually co-written by music mogul Phil Spector, who also footed the bill for the massive recording (a whopping $22,000). The session work required more than 20 musicians, but Spector believed in the song, and most importantly in Tina. In the ‘60s, Tina experienced moderate success alongside Ike Turner, who took on the role of manager, producer, and songwriter during their tumultuous time together. This single was one of the biggest successes of their tenure, before Tina broke out on her own and reached international stardom. During her Ike and Tina Turner days, Ike was the one calling the shots. Many might be surprised to learn Tina Turner isn’t even her real name. She was born Anna Mae Bullock, but Ike changed it when they started working together to give the impression they were married.
Recommended: More popular 60’s songs.
3. Proud Mary
California-based band Creedence Clearwater Revival was responsible for putting out some of swamp rock’s most definitive music in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Frontman John Fogerty was actually the man who wrote ‘Proud Mary,’ a cajun-inspired bluesy, rock masterpiece. A story involving riverboats, backbreaking work, and dreaming of more cosmopolitan circumstances, Fogerty penned the tune due to his elation after being discharged from the military following mandatory service for Vietnam. It was a huge hit for CCR, and when Ike and Tina Turner covered it in ‘71, it became a big hit for them as well. Fogerty loved their version, which starts out the song “easy” and languid, and ends it “rough” (per Tina’s description) and wide open. Tina’s performance for this one is historic.
Recommended: Hear the original on our pick of best Creedence Clearwater Revival songs.
2. The Best
Though Welsh musician Bonnie Tyler experienced little success with ‘The Best’ when she released it in 1988, when Turner released her uplifting, power-pop version a year later, her spirited performance scored the hit single a UK “Platinum Certification.” It is one of the ‘80s definitive classics. And it experienced a resounding comeback decades later thanks to its featured inclusion in the cult hit Canadian show Schitt’s Creek. Over the years, the romantic tune has become one of Turner’s trademark releases and remains a beloved nostalgic song fans love to revisit around the world.
1. What’s Love Got To Do With It
A quintessential 1980s hit that climbed all the way to number one in the US, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ remains Tina Turner’s trademark single. The moody pop song played a pivotal role in her career in the early ‘80s when she was trying to solidify herself as a solo artist. The single release ended up making her a “comeback kid,” and it catapulted her solo pop-rock career into international waters. Graham Lyle helped pen several of Turner’s biggest hits over the course of her career, and he definitely worked his songwriting magic with this one. Despite the massive success Turner had with ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It,’ she actually wasn’t a fan of the song’s message, which portrays her as a woman who only wants a physical relationship with a man instead of a romantic one. Despite her issue with the contents, she recognized its “hit potential” and recorded it anyways. Her instincts were spot on. At the Grammy Awards show after the song won Song of The Year, Best Female Performance, and Record of the Year.
Recommended: It’s no stranger to karaoke bars, either. Check out more 80’s karaoke songs.