|My legacy is that I stayed on course from the beginning to the end because I believed in something inside of me that told me that it can get better, or you can make something better, and that I wanted better. So my legacy is a person that strived for wanting it better and got it.
|Tina Turner in New York, Nov. 25, 1969.
|(Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
|quote of the day
“My legacy is that I stayed on course from the beginning to the end because I believed in something inside of me that told me that it can get better, or you can make something better, and that I wanted better. So my legacy is a person that strived for wanting it better and got it.”
- Tina Turner, 1939 – 2023
Queen of Rock and Roll
She was a force of nature who transcended genre, transcended generations, transcended age, transcended gravity, transcended that awful, abusive man with whom she first rose to fame, transcended everything but her own experience of the terrible things she endured. That, she lived with. And she sang it, in a raw, guttural voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere in her body. One of the greatest instruments rock was ever blessed with. “It’s the sound,” Chris Richards wrote in the Washington Post Wednesday, “of someone who knows pain.”
There was joy and freedom, too, defiant, hard-earned joy and freedom, in the voice that sang “RIVER DEEP – MOUNTAIN HIGH” in 1966 and “NUTBUSH CITY LIMITS” in 1973 and “BETTER BE GOOD TO ME” in 1984 and “GOLDENEYE” in 1995 (and I’ll never pass up the opportunity to link to this wild PRINCE cover from 1984), and that collected fans from MICK JAGGER (who she taught to dance, btw) to JANIS JOPLIN to DAVID BOWIE to BEYONCÉ to CARDI B along the way.
Is there anyone else who was a legit rock star in the 1960s who became a superstar in 1980s and was still going strong in the 1990s? Is there anyone else who lived that arc? Is there anyone else who was strong enough to do that?
"Endurance," TINA TURNER once said to OPRAH WINFREY, explaining how she saw her own legacy. "My legacy is that I stayed on course from the beginning to the end because I believed in something inside of me that told me that it can get better, or you can make something better, and that I wanted better. So my legacy is a person that strived for wanting it better and got it.”
Tina Turner’s story has been well chronicled, and she was always in control of the telling. She wanted people to know. First, there was a groundbreaking interview in People magazine in 1981 in which she went public with the horrific abuse she had endured in her first marriage. “Strange as it might seem today,” Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield wrote, “she was the first star to talk aloud about domestic violence, to insist on it as part of the story, not to gloss over it or act coy. Until she came along, the idiom ‘domestic violence’ wasn’t even part of the language.”
She went further in her 1986 memoir, “I, TINA,” written with KURT LODER, which was turned into the ANGELA BASSETT–LAURENCE FISHBURNE biopic WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT in 1993. And there was the soundtrack to all this: the 1984 blockbuster PRIVATE DANCER that updated her sound for the MTV ‘80s and effectively turned her life story and her accumulated wisdom into killer synth-driven pop songs and began her career anew, this time in pop hyperdrive. LIVE AID, HOLLYWOOD and all.
One of the great second acts in American lives.
She lived her final years in Switzerland with the loving, devoted, decent husband she finally found, while her life and songs were turned into a Broadway musical and she was finally elected to the ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME as a solo artist, symbolically freeing her of the forever connection to the abusive husband with whom she shared an earlier Hall of Fame plaque. Her health deteriorated in those final years; her refreshingly brutal and strong honesty did not. “It wasn’t a good life,” she told us near the beginning of the 2021 HBO documentary TINA. “It was in some areas, but the goodness did not balance the bad.” At the end of the film, she informed us she’d have nothing more to say in public. RIP.
I’ve written too many obituaries and remembrances in the eight and a half years I’ve been curating this newsletter. Icons: PRINCE. DAVID BOWIE. ARETHA FRANKLIN (actually, my friend Marcus K. Dowling wrote that one; thank you). RONNIE SPECTOR. LORETTA LYNN. MERLE HAGGARD. EDDIE VAN HALEN. WAYNE SHORTER. ORNETTE COLEMAN. LEMMY. CHRIS CORNELL. LITTLE RICHARD. OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN. DR. JOHN. MARK E. SMITH. TOM PETTY. CHRISTINE MCVIE. GEORGE MICHAEL. CHARLEY PRIDE. Lives cut too short: TAKEOFF. AVICII. JAIMIE BRANCH. SOPHIE. NIPSEY HUSSLE. MAC MILLER. TRUGOY THE DOVE. JUICE WRLD. DRAKEO THE RULER. Personal heroes: PETE SHELLEY. GRANT HART. ADAM SCHLESINGER. GREG TATE. HAL WILLNER. Giants of the industry: MO OSTIN. SEYMOUR STEIN. RUSS SOLOMON. WALTER YETNIKOFF.
Too many tears shed, too many pieces of my heart torn away. It’s taken its toll. I’m ever thankful—truly, deeply thankful—for the artists and music and stories that have continued to emerge from the hidden corners of this spiraling world, sometimes in defiance of that spiral, always helping to fill my heart back up. The neverending wonder and magic of music.
The first edition of MusicREDEF was zapped into the inboxes of several Karas family members and thousands of unsuspecting MediaREDEF subscribers on Oct. 10, 2014. It included a link to a Billboard story headlined “iTUNES Numbers Show 81 Million ‘Experienced’ U2 Album,” referring to a certain rock album that had been zapped into the entire known universe of iTunes accounts one month and one day earlier. I began to chronicle changes big and small in the business, technology, culture and art of music—starting with the death of that particular experiment in music marketing. (Possibly to erase the stain of that September release day, which was a Tuesday, the US record industry also would soon move all new releases from Tuesday to Friday. You can never be too careful.)
October 2014 was two presidents and a long time ago. Recorded music was at its nadir, financially speaking; eulogies for the industry were being drafted, if not actually published. SPOTIFY hadn’t yet delivered the riches the industry desperately needed after a yearslong slide. APPLE MUSIC and TIDAL didn’t exist. There was no TIKTOK but there was VINE (remember?). LIL NAS X, who would discover TikTok a few years later, was 15. TAYLOR SWIFT was still working on the BIG MACHINE versions of her discography. BTS’ first album had been out for two months and hadn’t cracked the US charts; it hadn’t even (and wouldn’t) hit #1 in South Korea.
Dynamic pricing was an annoying thing that airlines did. Women were being boxed out of festivals, the ROCK HALL OF FAME and country radio (OK, some things haven’t changed). Musicians were complaining about streaming royalties (see previous parentheses) and starting to seek out alternatives to labels, which they were also complaining about. A new, parallel industry of a la carte label services and artist/album/song investment was being born. Prince was alive. A pandemic, #MeToo, GEORGE FLOYD, Blackout Tuesday and other shadows loomed in the distance.
I’ve read a lot, seen a lot, heard a lot, shared a lot in these eight and a half years. I’ve gained a greater understanding, I hope, of the artist’s lot, the songwriter’s lot, the roadie’s lot, the fan's lot, even the poor little corner-office executive’s lot. It’s a struggle for all of them in different ways, and this whole thing doesn’t work without all that each of them does. I’ve tried to celebrate and sometimes gently prod them. I hope I’ve succeeded at least a little. I hope our readers have learned something, and have discovered new artists, new songs, new albums (or old ones!).
And, so, some personal news. Tomorrow, Friday, will be my last day as editor and curator of MusicREDEF. I’ve been contemplating this for a long time and I think, in the end, that my time here has simply run its course. It seems like the right moment to step away. REDEF has been a huge part of my life and I’ll look back with smiles, love and gratitude (and a little exhaustion).
The newsletter is going on a short hiatus but the MusicREDEF Twitter feed will continue while I work with JASON HIRSCHHORN to find the right person to pick up the reins and take this project forward. A unique person for a unique position that I’ve very much loved. (And hopefully someone who, unlike me, knows what Web3 is.) It’s hard to imagine the surprises in music, culture, business and technology that lie ahead, and I look forward to being a reader. I won’t be too far away. I’ll continue to collaborate with Jason on REDEF’s future and probably step back in with a thought from time to time.
Rest in Peace
Jazz (plus) bassist/composer BILL LEE, who scored his son Spike Lee’s first four films and accompanied a range of artists including Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and Duke Ellington... Baritone saxophonist FLOYD NEWMAN, a key member of the house band at Stax Records. He played on records by B.B. King, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and many more.
|- Matty Karas, curator
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