Review #392: Proud Mary: The Best of Ike & Tina Turner, Ike & Tina Turner

Karla Clifton
4 min readMay 26, 2023

#392: Proud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner, Ike & Tina Turner

This is the second album I’ve reviewed shortly after the artist’s death. I kind of feel weird about it.

Anna Mae Bullock started her career by asking if she could join Ike Turner’s band, where he played guitar. Turner refused at first, until one day he wrote a song for Art Lassiter, “A Fool In Love”, who didn’t show up to the recording session. Ike asked Anna Mae to mark the track, and the rest is history. He then bestowed her with her stage name, Tina, inspired by Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. (Who also inspired a Ramones song, go figure.)

Ike started his career as a teetotaler, but somewhere along the line, became addicted to cocaine. And somewhere else along the line, he started beating up his star frontwoman and wife. Tina’s account of Ike’s abuse is horrible: “I was living a life of death. I didn’t exist. I didn’t fear him killing me when I left, because I was already dead.” Tina left Ike in a hotel room in 1976, famously with only 36 cents to her name. The domestic drama was made famous in 1993 with the movie What’s Love Got To Do With It (named for a song she released as a solo artist) starring Angela Bassett in her breakout role. Turner reportedly participated in the making of the film, but never watched it, saying (understandably) “Why would I want to see Ike Turner beat me up again?”

I hope the movie made her a buttload of cash, because it had the unfortunate effect of making her almost as famous for her pain as she was for her talent. She’s been reduced to a punch line in rap music. Just over the course of this album review project, I’ve seen it referenced by the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Drake, and Jay-Z again, but on a Beyonce album. Frankly I think it’s disgusting, and upsetting. But as Tina herself said, it’s not surprising.

But anyway. Who cares if Ike sucks, because Tina rocks. This album cover doesn’t do her justice — she looks like a Fifties pop princess, not the Queen of Rock & Roll. Even on their early hits (“I Idolize You,” “I’m Jealous,” “Poor Fool”) her voice sounds like a train coming off the tracks. She’s whooping, wailing, growling, shrieking. And this was 1960! Not even the Beatles were going this hard yet.

Ike wrote most of the songs, but it’s pretty obvious that most of them wouldn’t sound so vivid and alive without his lead singer. They range from doo-wop (“You Shoulda Treated Me Right”) to sex jam (“I’m Yours (Use Me Any Way You Wanna)”) to the randomly political (just one, “Workin’ Together” — not his strong suit). Honestly, I preferred the ones that weren’t penned by Ike. Turner’s sister Alline Bullock wrote the deliciously-named “Funkier Than A Mosquita’s Tweeter,” which is equal parts horny and accusatory. And Tina herself wrote their most personal songs. “Up In Heah” and “Sweet Rhode Island Red” are both about femme fatales that abandoned their religious upbringing for a life of sin, and do not regret it. She does something similar on “Sexy Ida (Part 1 & 2),” which is just basically two takes on the same song, one R&B funk, the other bluesy rock. Could Ike give sexy women such agency? No — he could only take it away.

The Turners worked with some cool people over the years. Phil Spector (Boo!) gave “River Deep, Mountain High” his Wall of Sound treatment, while Beach Boy Brian Wilson apparently watched, dumbstruck. Marc Bolan of T. Rex was rumored to play on Tina’s semi-autobiographical “Nutbush City Limits.” The Rolling Stones were so impressed with them that they toured with them twice — spawning their cover of “Honky Tonk Women.” Most excitingly, she played the “Acid Queen” in the movie version of The Who’s Tommy!

I’ll give Ike this — he did have a way with covers. They have a groovy take on the Beatles’ “Come Together,” and a rather straightforward take on Sly Stone’s “I Want To Take You Higher.” Then there’s “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” by Jessie Hill. And, I think that’s it? No more covers to be seen here!

JUST KIDDING. Tina ripped “Proud Mary” from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s bare hands. How could their cool, sleepy original compete with Tina declaring that they’ll do the beginning nice & easy, and the end rough? CCR wrote a great song, but Tina made it a masterpiece.

(Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention the excellent vocal work from the Ikettes — see “Tra La La La La” for a fun one. And FINE, Ike has some fun vocal moments too — check his conversational charisma on “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” and his deep, deep register on “Baby, Get It On.”)

Tina was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 … with Ike Turner, who was in prison at the time of induction. What a slap in the face. She was inducted again as a solo artist in 2021, long after Ike’s death of an overdose in 2007. Her career outlasted Ike’s by a million miles — he kept making music, but he never saw the success he had with Tina again. At the beginning of her career, he trademarked her stage name, warning her that she was replaceable. Turns out, she wasn’t.

RIP Tina Turner & Anna Mae Bullock.

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