Tina Turner’s Southern Soul and Country Contributions
Few if any took the struggle and pain in life, and spun it into a story of triumph and perseverance like Tina Turner did. A true Queen of Rock and Roll music, the revelation of her death on Wednesday, May 24th marks a towering loss for music. But she leaves behind a treasure trove of songs that the world will cherish for eons to come.
As Tina Turner asked in the song “We Don’t Need Another Hero” that crowned the soundtrack for the 1985 movie Max Max: Beyond Thunderdome that she also starred in, “So, what do we do with our lives? We leave only a mark. Will our story shine like a light? Or end in the dark?”
For Tina Turner, it will invariably shine. And it won’t just shine in rock, pop, and soul, which her musical legacy is best known for. Tina Turner left a mark in country music too, and a rather large one when you delve into the details of her legacy.
Tina Turner was born in Brownsville, Tennessee, not far from Memphis and the Mississippi River, and lived in Knoxville for a time as well. She grew up in rural communities and picked cotton at an early age, singing in the church on Sunday like so many Southerners. When she sang the steamboat song “Proud Mary,” she had more credibility to sing it than the songwriter John Fogerty. So when it came time for Tina Turner to release her debut solo album, she turned to her country roots for inspiration.
While still part of the Ike & Tina Turner Review with her notoriously abusive husband, Tina recorded the album Tina Turns The Country On! and released it in September of 1974. The idea was to expose Tina Turner to a wider audience by broadening her repertoire into country and folk. Turner sang Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On,” and Dolly Parton’s “There’ll Always Be Music” among others. The legendary James Burton played guitar for the sessions.
Tina Turns The Country On! has been one of the more forgotten entries in the Tina Turner catalog, and is regularly overlooked when running down Black contributions to country music. It was never released on CD, and streaming platforms only have some of the songs available due to permissions disputes. But those who have a copy will tell you that the album is a quality cross-genre effort, while remaining historically important as Turner’s first solo album.
During her career, Tina Turner also recorded multiple other country music classics, including “Stand By Your Man,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” “Lovin’ [Him] Was Easier” and “We Had It All” made popular by Waylon Jennings, and other country standards. The songs have since been repackaged and repurposed multiple times in various compilations with names like Tina Turner Sings Country and Tina Turner Goes Country, though these are not original albums.
But perhaps Tina Turner’s biggest country music contribution came from being a muse, not a performer.
In 1969, Waylon Jennings was hanging out at the Fort Worther Motel in Fort Worth, TX when he breezed by an advertisement for Tina Turner describing her as a “good hearted woman loving two-timing men.” Waylon immediately recognized the phrase as the perfect premise for a country song.
Willie Nelson also happened to be around at the time, though was deep into a poker game. So to get Willie’s ear, Waylon had to be dealt in. As the two played cards and called out lyrics, Willie’s wife Connie wrote them down. Both Willie and Waylon lost the poker game, but they won one of the the most iconic songs in country music history.
Waylon first recorded and released “Good Hearted Woman” in 1972, and it became a hit, peaking at #3. But when Waylon and Willie teamed up on the track and released it on the landmark Wanted: The Outlaws compilation in 1976 as a “live” track, it went to #1. Wanted: The Outlaws was the first ever Platinum-selling album in country music history and launched the “Outlaw” movement. “Good Hearted Woman” was the biggest hit on the record.
Sure, Tina Turner didn’t write it originally. But she inspired “Good Hearted Woman” by her dogged spirit, and the song has gone on to inspire a whole subgenre of country about the bad men, and the good women that love them. Turner also recorded the song herself later in her career.
May 24, 2023 @ 6:29 pm
Tina is a true legend, who lit up the world. R.I.P.
Country When Country Wasn't Cool
May 24, 2023 @ 6:43 pm
Simply the Best…RIP
May 24, 2023 @ 7:04 pm
Speaking of “Turner,” sorry, but I can’t help but remember the old joke from Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon (Karnack the Magnificent) that goes as follows, concerning a movie from decades ago:
Answer: Turner and Hooch.
Question: What’s a rude thing to do to your date?
May 26, 2023 @ 7:59 am
My favorite was:
Answer: Rub a dub dub
Question: What do you do when your dub itches.
May 24, 2023 @ 7:29 pm
Thanks for another history lesson Trig! I didn’t know any of this stuff. Now when somebody mentions Tina’s death tomorrow, I can note how she inspired the Willie & Waylon song, pretending I knew this due to my vast music knowledge, haha. RIP.
May 24, 2023 @ 7:46 pm
Tina Was Amazing.
May 24, 2023 @ 8:24 pm
Sorry for the family’s loss n and our loss to fabulous singer may you RIP Tina Turner
May 24, 2023 @ 9:46 pm
One of the true music pioneers.
May 25, 2023 @ 1:37 am
legend. love her stuff with Ike. Crazy to think this was the pop music we grew up on in the 80’s, it was everywhere but was still incredibly good and “real”.
May 25, 2023 @ 1:53 am
I definitely remember Tina for “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”
I did not know of her country connections.
They’re a lot bigger than I would have expected.
Some label like Legacy should have released a CD or double CD box of her country recordings at the height of the CD era.
May 25, 2023 @ 5:19 am
Love Tina Turner, but this is a hectic version of Good Hearted Woman.
May 26, 2023 @ 8:06 am
I agree. I like Tina Turner, but she was prone to over-singing and vocal wanking. That was hard to listen to.
May 25, 2023 @ 6:30 am
Good story with tie ins to country music. But even if she had no country ties, Tina Turner is worth memorializing. RIP
May 25, 2023 @ 6:37 am
Another “country” connection to Tina is that her 1971 hit “Proud Mary” was engineered by Brent Maher. (He also engineered “Age Of Aquarius” for the Fifth Dimension)
Fast forward about 12 years and Brent is in Nashville working with The Judds. He produced all ten of their albums and co-wrote several of their hits. Brent also produced projects for other country acts including Kathy Mattea.
May 25, 2023 @ 7:30 am
What’s Love Got To Do With combines drum programming, synth and tasteful light guitar playing, and a monster vocal..proof that great music is great music..can come from any recording setup
May 25, 2023 @ 7:43 am
She is one of the folks I wish could have heard live, RIP Ms. Tina!
May 25, 2023 @ 8:59 am
An absolute legend who knew how to make music into a performance. RIP Tina Turner.
May 25, 2023 @ 10:12 am
Simply the best sums up Tina Turner as a person and as a singer. I was lucky enough to see her perform in concert on a couple of occasions. She was an incredible performer. She will be much missed. RIP
May 25, 2023 @ 10:20 am
Tina Turner was ABSOLUTELY A TRUE LEGEND ! She will be missed by many …… as I was sad to hear of her passing ! Loved her and May she R.I.P. , XOXO
May 25, 2023 @ 11:40 am
That is a terrific factoid. Good work Trig!
May 25, 2023 @ 12:44 pm
This speaks to how many 60s and 70s country albums are unavailable compared to rock. I use Amazon Music and couldn’t find Mel Tillis’ Send Me Down to Tucson except on a later career live album.
May 25, 2023 @ 1:24 pm
I’m losing my mind over here because “The Tennessean” and “Rolling Stone” just posted stories about how racist country music is for not embracing Tina Turner’s country stuff when the real reason her country record got buried is because it was never promoted well, never released a single, and has been out of print for some 40 years, and probably BECAUSE it’s country. So much of country’s catalog is unavailable, including Tina Turner’s country stuff. You want to get on someone for burying her legacy, get on her record label for not allowing the public to listen to this stuff. It’s 2023. Let’s get this done.
May 25, 2023 @ 2:06 pm
‘So much of country’s catalog is unavailable, including Tina Turner’s country stuff. You want to get on someone for burying her legacy, get on her record label for not allowing the public to listen to this stuff. It’s 2023. Let’s get this done.”
Amen, Brother ‼️❣️
Screw “The Tennessean” and “Rolling Stone” for gaslighting and trying to ignite and incite racism.
Pathetic losers are they.
They live to cause trouble, while most of us are out here loving and working beside our neighbors of all backgrounds, and ethnicities.
Would be So Cool to have all of Tina’s work, released to the public.
May 25, 2023 @ 4:59 pm
One thing I’ve learned is not to condemn any writer or speaker for someone else’s interpretation of their comment or essay. I’ll assume that whatever the Tennessean and Rolling Stone wrote about Tina Turner’s country recordings and their reception was nuanced and covered the subject from several angles. And I’ll venture that saying that the articles are “about how racist country music is for not embracing Tina Turner’s country stuff” might not adequately capture their essence. I’d like to read the articles for myself, but unfortunately, whenever I click on something from either of those publications, I run into their paywalls.
May 25, 2023 @ 7:09 pm
This comment pretty much says it all. As I always say, you can’t wage a revolution behind a paywall. It’s almost like members of elite society doesn’t want us peasants peering into their conversations.
May 28, 2023 @ 5:39 am
Use 12ftladder to get around the paywall.
May 25, 2023 @ 5:49 pm
I’m a lifelong fan of country music and I was working full-time in country radio in 1974. But this is the first I’ve ever heard of Tina Turner’s country album! Don’t remember my station having a copy of a single or an album by her. Nor do I recall hearing her played on any other country radio station around that time. Our playlist was tracked weekly by Billboard, Cashbox and Record World so we consistently had great service from all the country record labels in Nashville. Maybe if we had a copy we might have played it.
For the record my station did play “Fairytale” by the Pointer Sisters that same year. Their record label ABC/Blue Thumb sent us a promotional copy. I recall quite a few other country stations played that song too. Great tune.
May 25, 2023 @ 7:10 pm
Thanks for the insight. Everything that I have read about the album is that it was poorly promoted, no singles were serviced to radio from it, and it went out-of-print shortly after its release.
May 27, 2023 @ 8:53 am
I heard someone say on NPR this morning — I think it was Scott Simon — that the album was pulled mainly because Tina didn’t like it. Can’t say how reliable that is.
May 25, 2023 @ 5:59 pm
It should also be said that Tina’s album “Tina Turns The Country On” does have at least three songs from the more, shall we say, folkier side of country: “Don’t Talk Now” (written by one James Taylor); “He Belongs To Me” (actually “She Belongs To Me”, written by Bob Dylan and a hit for Rick Nelson in 1970) and the Gary White-penned 1970 Linda Ronstadt hit “Long Long Time”.
May 26, 2023 @ 7:35 pm
Funny just a week or so ago, I looked for that album online because I saw that she did Dylan’s song. I’m a bit of a fan of Bob Dylan covers but alas I couldn’t find it online.
May 26, 2023 @ 2:53 pm
Funny how Rolling Stone still thinks it has any credibility left.
You’d think Mr. Penske would clean house over there and start over.
May 25, 2023 @ 1:11 pm
Great article on Tina Turner👏 she was amazing
What woman wouldn’t want legs like hers 🤷♀️
Condolences to her family 🙏
May 25, 2023 @ 5:25 pm
Loved Tina and Ike, she was super great solo also, great entertainer
May 28, 2023 @ 4:39 am
More talent in that woman’s pinky toe than what pop music produces today.
May 30, 2023 @ 2:51 pm
Love the “Good Hearted Woman” story. There should be a constitutional amendment prohibiting covering “Proud Mary” on the grounds that it would be a futile waste of resources trying to top what Tina & Ike did with that song.