Once Upon a Time at the Top of the Charts: Tina Turner, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”

Thursday, September 1, 2016
Once Upon a Time at the Top of the Charts: Tina Turner, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”

31 years ago today, Tina Turner came back. Yes, we know that LL Cool J once said, “Don’t call it a comeback,” but in this case, we think it’s a fair choice of phrase to describe Turner’s arrival at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

After spending the early years of her career alongside her abusive husband, Ike Turner, Tina finally found the strength and courage to go it alone in the late ‘70s. Unfortunately, despite having a relatively high profile as a singer, she struggled to find chart success on her own until 1983, when she scored a top-10 hit in the UK – not to mention as top-30 hit in the US – with a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” At the time, Turner had been signed to Capitol Records on a singles-only deal, but after the success of the track, the label gave her a three-album deal, but they asked for the first of the three albums to be delivered ASAP. She and her creative team were as good as their word, but no one expected the remarkable success that the album was about to achieve.

“What’s Love Got to Do With It,” written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, was actually turned down by Cliff Richard and Donna Summer, a decision which obviously panned out well for Turner: not only did it turned out to be her first top-10 single since the early ‘70s, but it was – and still remains – her only time at the top of the Hot 100.

Really, though, if you’re going to have just the one #1 hit, you couldn’t do much better: it was awarded Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year at the 1985 Grammys, and in 2012 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Most importantly, though, Tina Turner came back so successfully as a result of its release that, to this day, it still remains her signature song.