The grit in her voice suggests two decades of hard traveling; the still sexy smile does not. "I didn't really have any bad times," says Tina Turner of her recent past. "It looked like bad times from the orthodox way of thinking, but the times without a record have been great for me."
Some people's great times would fell an ox. In 1976, after nearly 16 years of an often violent union, Tina finally left husband Ike Turner to try her luck, and life, as a solo. She found herself not free at last but with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt resulting from the duo's broken concert dates. For the next eight years the fiery presence of A Fool in Love, Proud Mary and River Deep, Mountain High paid off those debts. Tina sang a glitzy act in Vegas. She sang at suburban supper clubs. She sang at McDonald's sales conventions. Some great time.
But all that ended this year. In 1984 Tina Turner put her new album, Private Dancer, on the charts for 29 weeks (and holding); placed two singles (What's Love Got to Do With It and Better Be Good to Me) in the Top Five; toured with Lionel Richie; graced a track on David Bowie's new album with her sandpaper-and-blasting-powder vocals; and made three videos that had new fans asking the same questions about the 46-year-old bachelor lady that an older generation did about the 23-year-old bride: Where does she get that energy? And just what percentage of her 5'4" is leg?
Turner will say she is profiting from the innocence of listeners weaned on rock artists who were songwriters first and performers a poor second. "And then," she explains triumphantly, "all of a sudden here comes Tina Turner flying and kicking and jumping. And they go, 'Wow! Look at that!' " So sure was one magazine of Tina's revitalized image that it made her a focus of its new, tongue-in-cheek ad campaign proclaiming her "one of the drab Homebodies" counted among its readers.
Right now the homebody is in Australia, involved in her latest career move...or, as she puts it, "the enormous leap I'm after," into film. Inspired after seeing an interview with her, director George Miller immediately scripted Turner into the latest of his Mad Max movies, her first film project since 1975's Tommy. The erstwhile Acid Queen is happy with her role as Entity, the proprietress of a post-apocalyptic Dodge City. "I don't want to do sexy movies," she says. "And I'm not funny, so I couldn't do comedy. I want to be dealing with some kind of war. Physical strength in a woman—that's what I am."
That strength may be sorely tested. There is an HBO gig in March, then a European tour, a new LP to make in April and a late summer U.S. tour to promote it. And in sold-out house after sold-out house, Tina Turner will be singing the lyrics written by an admiring British songsmith, who, after meeting her, was inspired to art by her aura:
I'm scanning the horizon
For someone recognizing
That I might have been Queen. No more "might have been" about it, Tina.
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