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20 People Who Changed Black Music: Rock & Roll Royalty Tina Turner, the Whole Package

Turner stepped out on stage last month at London's Natural History Museum and ripped through a medley of her greatest hits before an audience of corporate executives and civic folk who had paid as much as $30,000 for a ticket to the charity event. Dressed in a glittering black mini dress, the 67-year-old queen of rock - who waved goodbye to life on stage at London's Wembley Stadium in 2000 - hinted that there may be more to come, after enjoying semi-retirement in Europe for about seven years. That year, Turner left the stage at the top, bringing in more than $80 million in revenue from 95 concerts, according to Pollstar. And throughout her career, she's brought in millions more for her recordings, videos and performances, having set stages afire with her electrifying shows for almost half a century. Anna Mae Bullock, better known as Tina Turner, has been a force in entertainment since the Ike and Tina Turner Revue debuted in 1960. "Tina Turner is an original," Hollywood entertainment commentator Tanya Kersey told BlackAmericaWeb.com. "She didn't duplicate anyone, and she can not be duplicated." Turner showed the world she could "succeed on her own terms," Kersey said. Emmett Price, an accomplished jazz musician and professor of music and African-American culture at Northeastern University in Boston, puts it like this: "Before there was Beyonce, before there was Janet Jackson, there was Tina. She's a dynamic singer and dancer, and she's able to bring the whole package on stage."

Mark Bego wrote the most recent book on Turner's life. "Break Every Rule," published in 2005, which "moves through the life story of a woman who endured hardship, survived and continued her climb," said Bego, who has written 50 biographies of stars, including a current book on Billy Joel. "What is so great about Tina is that she has such a great story," Bego told Black AmericaWeb.com. Her early fame came in the days of Ike and Tina Turner, flourishing in the '60 and mid-70s. Their hits like "Proud Mary" and "River Deep, Mountain High," coupled with an action-packed stage show, gave the team big numbers at the ticket office and in record sales. But it wasn't until Tina Turner reemerged on the music scene in 1981 after her break from the allegedly abusive Ike in 1978 that she really gained some stability on the business side that complimented her performance, Bego said. "Ike would have them record songs live on one label, then jump to another and record the songs again," Bego said. Turner opened for the Rolling Stones on tour in 1981 and signed on with Capitol Records in 1982, establishing a long-time relationship with the label. Her 1984 single "What's Love Got to Do With It," and the album on which it appeared, "Private Dancer," was the first big Grammy winner for Turner as solo artist. And the album also was a major seller, with more than 5 million copies sold in the United States. That song was the pivotal point for Tina, says Price, and spurred what is considered one of the greatest comebacks in music history.

"It appealed to our inner selves. It asks a dynamic question and makes you think about it," Price told BlackAmericaWeb.com. "It cries out in the same way as Marvin Gaye's 'Inner City Blues.'" In 1985, Tina took home three Grammy Awards - Record of the Year and Best Vocal Performance, Female for "What's Love Got to Do With It" and Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female for "Better Be Good to Me." Also that year, she picked up several other Grammy nominations, including Album of the year for "Private Dancer" and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for her remake of the Al Green classic, "Let's Stay Together."

Twenty years later, in 2005, "All The Best," a collection of Turner's hits, was certified platinum. Turner converted to Buddhism after her divorce from Ike, but the gospel flavor of her sound, borne in churches in her hometown in rural Tennessee, continued to flow through her music, Price said. "Her sound didn't fit into any category. Sure, it was under an R&B umbrella, but it was adaptable and she did her own thing without restraints," Price said. "Black music can fuse the sacred and the secular." Bego recalls watching from the audience in 2000 as she did one of her farewell concerts in Anaheim, California. "I sat there watching her move across the stage, singing hit after hit, and I thought, 'Oh, my,'" he said. "She has her own style. Aretha can just stand there and sing. Tina never just stands there. She's always moving."

Bego's got high hopes for another Turner comeback. "I know she said farewell, and she is done with touring, but I hope she returns. I still think there is a lot more left for Tina." Those same thoughts apparently were on Turner's mind too when she performed last month in London. "Wisdom comes with age, especially when one is at the stage where I am," she said, according to several published reports. "I still feel like something else is coming for me, something very special. I might be 90 or 100 years old, but I'll still be able to say, ‘I've got it.'"

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