Tina Turner’s Powerhouse Career Recounted in HBO Documentary
- Tina. HBO. Saturday, March 27, 8 p.m.
- The United States of Al. CBS. Thursday, April 1, 9:30 p.m.
Tina Turner has spent the last 40 years of her life trying to be done with the behind-the-music fable of the nearly two decades she spent as her husband Ike’s punching bag. With HBO’s authorized documentary Tina, she’s failed again. Ike is still there, blackening her eyes, whipping her with clothes hangers, hammering her with his fists as a prelude to sex.
But Tina offers much more than a retread. No TV show or movie has ever put together a more torrid collection of clips of Tina on stage: whirling, spinning, leaping, frantically cavorting like Mick Jagger before Mick Jagger existed, glistening with sweat and sexuality, while crying out in a banshee voice that seems equally capable of calling God or Satan. A montage of TV appearances in which Tina performs Phil Spector’s stirring masterpiece “River Deep – Mountain High” is probably the most insanely thrilling bit of rock and roll ever committed to film, the very definition of the phrase “You rock!”
Tina‘s tale is by now a familiar one, related in epic detail in the book I, Tina (co-authored by Reason film critic Kurt Loder in a previous existence) and the film it spawned, What’s Love Got to Do with It: her lonely childhood in a home headed by ferociously violent parents who deserted her at a young age; her professional break when the scuffling R&B maestro Ike Turner (who arguably invented rock’n’roll) wearily gave in to her pleas and let her sing one from the audience; her years in the electrifying but little-known Ike & Tina Turner Revue, doing four shows a night, eight months a year, on the chitlin’ circuit under the direction of the increasingly brutal Ike.
The breakout moment for the band came in 1966 when Spector signed Tina and (a mostly absentee) Ike to cut “River Deep — Mountain High” in front of the famed Los Angeles session players known as the Wrecking Crew. The record unaccountably flopped (and sent Spector into a deep psychological spiral from which he never really recovered). But to hear Turner’s voice soaring over Spector’s monstrous Wall of Sound production was a revelation. “That was so big,” she muses in an interview for Tina, “and I sounded so different.”
It took five years, but Ike and Turner finally scored a bonafide hit with a zapped-up cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.” That proved disastrous for Tina. Ike used the royalties to open his own studio along with bankrolling a prodigious drug habit, running up bills that could only be paid with an even more intense touring schedule and even more savage pummeling of Tina. After a final beatdown dur
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