I had the privilege of interviewing Tina Turner in February 1984, when her remake of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” was climbing into the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. The interview was released on February 25, 1984, under the headline “Tina Turner Returns to Top 40.”
Turner’s remake of “Let’s Stay Together”, which climbed from No. 38 to No. 34 that week, was her first Top 40 hit since Ike and Tina’s “Nutbush City Limits” in late 1973. and Turner was then in the midst of a 40 date British tour. So, she was already doing well.
But she probably couldn’t have imagined just how big her comeback would be. On February 26, 1985, nearly a year after we spoke, she won three Grammys, including record of the year for “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”
Turner attributed her better fortunes to the changes she made in her career, which included signing with Roger Davies to manage her, who was best known for guiding Olivia Newton-John’s career at the time. She had decided to focus on rock’n’roll, which was unusual for a woman of color—and a woman of a certain age (Turner was 45 at the time).
“I changed my band and changed a lot of the songs,” she said. “I was doing a high-energy Vegas type show, because I was working a lot of clubs. I changed it up and made it more rock’n’roll. I was working a lot of rock’n’roll clubs. joined in, and as a result my audience is getting younger and younger.
Turner credits his rediscovery by rock fans to The Rolling Stones and recent collaborations with Rod Stewart. Turner performed a duet with Mick Jagger during The Stones’ 1981 tour and also appeared with Stewart at a 1982 concert that was broadcast worldwide via satellite.
Although the door to Turner’s comeback was opened by a remake of an R&B classic, rock’n’roll is where his heart was.
“My stage performance is basically rock’n’roll,” she said. “I’m more comfortable with it; The energy is good and I love the words. I don’t really want to do R&B right now. I can’t say I won’t go back to it, because it’s my roots. I just like to sing fast paced stuff. I’m very optimistic now.”
“Let’s Stay Together” was only the seventh Top 40 hit of Turner’s career, trailing Ike and Tina Turner’s breakthrough hit “A Fool in Love” by almost 24 years.
When asked about pop radio’s reluctance over the years to add her records, Turner said, “I hate to talk about racism, but it has a lot to do with it. When I started my career, You had to hit R&B before it made a crossover. I understand that’s still a lot. Foreign countries don’t label or color music. They just program it.
Regarding her spontaneous re-entry after a five-year absence from the recording scene, Turner said, “It wasn’t that I was constantly making records that were losers. I just wanted to do well and keep my audience engaged.” So when I came up with some material they were all there for it.
And that statistic about “Let’s Stay Together” being just her seventh Top 40 hit in a 24-year career? Turner collected her next seven Top 40 hits – from “What’s Love Got to Do With It” to “It’s Only Love” (with Bryan Adams) by the end of 1985.
The “optimistic” sentiments that Turner spoke of in February 1984 were entirely justified.