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Best Tina Turner Songs: 30 Classics From The Queen Of Rock’n’Roll
List & Guides

Best Tina Turner Songs: 30 Classics From The Queen Of Rock’n’Roll

From gritty ballads to gospel-infused funk’n’roll, the best Tina Turner songs established the iconic singer as an era-defining legend.

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In a 1985 interview, Tina Turner was asked, “Who believed in you?” Her response came quickly: “Me. All me.” This self-belief, channelled through a spine strong as steel, infuses the best Tina Turner songs. Given the challenges and hardships she has faced, it is one reason why her music and her life inspired generations of musicians and fans.

Born Anna Mae Bullock on 26 November 1939, in Brownsville, Tennessee, Turner first encountered music in the church, where, like many of the world’s best soul singers, she sang in the choir. She began her professional musical career performing alongside Ike Turner. There’s no doubt that Ike and Tina Turner were a formidable duo who helped shape soul music in the 60s, but Tina was a musical force to be reckoned with all by herself. From the very beginning, her raw, gritty voice stood out from the crowd, and she could belt out songs at the top of her lungs, ensuring everyone heard her message. That voice took her from the studio to the stage, the big screen and the theatre, and ensured that the best Tina Turner songs still stand the test of time.

One of the most influential Black musicians in history, Tina Turner died in May 2023, in her adopted home of Switzerland. In an interview published just a month before her passing, she was as powerful as ever. Asked how she would like to be remembered, she said: “As the ‘Queen Of Rock’n’Roll. As a woman who showed other woman that it is OK to strike for success on their own terms.”

Listen to the best of Tina Turner here, and check out our best Tina Turner songs, below.

30: Foreign Affair (from ‘Foreign Affair’, 1989)

The title track of Tina Turner’s final 80s album, Foreign Affair, this is a big pop cocktail of snatched liaisons, intrigue and enormous vocals. Turner co-produced the album, taking control as the process went on, as she felt that the men leading the recording sessions up to that point weren’t realising her vision. “I didn’t plan it, it’s a lot of work,” she said of producing in 1989. “[But] the songs that we had chosen needed my input. I knew that there were some things missing.”

29: Afterglow (from ‘Break Every Rule’, 1986)

Afterglow was the eighth single lifted from Turner’s blockbuster 1986 album, Break Every Rule. It’s a great track in its original form, though it achieves true brilliance in its 12” mixes – particularly the spacey Glowing Dub Mix. Although Turner’s 80s work is primarily in rock and soul music, Afterglow proves she was absolutely tuned into the dancefloor, too.

28: Ooh Poo Pah Doo (with Ike Turner) (from ‘Workin’ Together’, 1971)

Initially written and recorded by Jessie Hill, Ooh Poo Pah Doo was covered by numerous artists, and Ike and Tina Turner gave it a go on a number of occasions, featuring the song on 1965’s Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show before cutting it in the studio for 1970’s Workin’ Together. Released as a single in 1971, Ooh Poo Pah Doo hit No.31 on the Billboard R&B chart. Heavy piano keys provide the intro to this funky blues track, with Tina’s vocals adding spirit and soul.

27: Whatever You Want (from ‘Wildest Dreams’, 1996)

This spellbinding track served as the lead single for Turner’s ninth solo album, Wildest Dreams. Though it enjoyed moderate commercial success, Whatever You Want earns a spot among the best Tina Turner songs thanks to its orchestral arrangement, dynamic production and Turner’s emotional vocals.

26: Girls (from ‘Break Every Rule’, 1986)

Tina Turner credited her friend David Bowie for stepping in when her career was at a low point and her label at the time, Capitol, did not wish to renew her contract. “In 1983 David Bowie did something very special and significant for me,” she said, recounting how Bowie, whose US releases were issued through the Capitol subsidiary EMI America, used his influence to get a record company representative to attend one of Turner’s gigs. “Luckily it was a great show,” she said. “Seeing it, and the crowd’s reaction, turned around how Capitol viewed me.”

Girls was penned by Bowie especially for Turner. Bowie released his own version a year later, on the Never Let Me Down, and recorded versions in both English and Japanese. The song itself was partially inspired by the movie Blade Runner, and Bowie paraphrased lines from the film in the song.

25: It’s Gonna Work Out Fine (with Ike Turner) (1961)

Lifted for single release from Ike and Tina’s second album, Dynamite!, It’s Gonna Work Out Fine earned the duo their first Grammy nomination, for Best Rock & Roll Recording. A back-and-forth between two lovers reminiscing about their past, present and future, the cool, gospel-infused groove was one of Ike and Tina’s biggest hits.

24: Music Keeps Me Dancin’ (from ‘Love Explosion’, 1979)

Many established artists tried their hand at disco in the latter half of the 70s, and Tina Turner was no exception. Although she had created some disco crackers on albums with Ike, these tracks had always coexisted with funk and soul; the Love Explosion album, however, was a true disco groove. It was produced by studio legend Alec R Constandinos, whose earlier work in the Eurodisco genre, with Cerrone, marks the high point of this often-maligned sound.

Love Explosion contains many under-heard gems, and Music Keeps Me Dancin’ is one. More than worthy of a spot among the best Tina Turner songs, it’s a fantastic, shiny musical concoction, with Turner’s vocals at their huskiest, serving to rough up the disco gloss.

23: Steamy Windows (from ‘Foreign Affair’, 1989)

One of the most carnal entries among the best Tina Turner songs, Steamy Windows – a passionate ode to automobile sensuality – remains one of the “Queen Of Rock’n’Roll”’s best-known and well-loved tracks (and was famously found to be the ringtone of actor Emma Watson). But Turner was always quick to shut down any sleazy remarks about her sex appeal, always defining sensuality on her own terms; she notably ended an interview with US TV network CBS when the host refused to move on from the subject.

22: It’s Only Love (with Bryan Adams) (from ‘Reckless’, 1984)

Peaking at No.15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and featuring on Bryan Adams’ multi-million-selling 1984 album, Reckless, this phenomenal rock duet showcases both singers’ gritty vocals, paired with screeches, ad-libs and harmonies. Turner recorded her own version of It’s Only Love for her 1988 live album, Tina Live In Europe, while the original single’s music video was filmed during a live performance on Turner’s 1985 Private Dancer Tour and would go on to win Best Stage Performance In A Video at the 1986 MTV Awards.

21: Typical Male (from ‘Break Every Rule’, 1986)

Also standing among the best Tina Turner songs of the 80s, Typical Male was the first single lifted from the Break Every Rule album, and it narrowly missed out on Billboard’s No.1 spot. Keyboards dominate this funky electro-pop track, while Turner brings all the drama with her vocals, celebrating feminine power and seduction.

20: When The Heartache Is Over (1999)

A single from Tina Turner’s final solo album, Twenty Four Seven, When The Heartache Is Over was Turner’s deliberate attempt to incorporate newer sounds into her repertoire (she had been inspired by hearing how Cher’s 1998 megahit, Believe, had transformed her sound). Turner specifically set out to work with younger producers in order to capture the energetic, dance-oriented vibe of 1999 – and she succeeded, majestically.

19: I Idolize You (from ‘The Soul Of Ike & Tina Turner’, 1961)

Written and produced by Ike Turner, with Tina leading on vocals, I Idolize You is a classic blues jam sprinkled with soul. Tina’s raspy, intense vocals contrast beautifully with the smoothness of the beat and the soothing melodies of The Ikettes, The Ike And Tina Turner Revue’s backing vocalists. As the second single from Ike and Tina’s debut studio album, The Soul Of Ike & Tina Turner, the song shares some similarities with A Fool In Love, one of the first songs the duo recorded together. They later re-recorded it for their 1969 album River Deep – Mountain High.

18: Ball Of Confusion (with British Electric Foundation) (from ‘Music Of Quality And Distinction Volume One’, 1982)

After Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh left The Human League, the pair embarked on a new project under the name British Electric Foundation, or BEF. Using different vocalists for each track they recorded, Ware and Marsh had seen their original plan for Ball Of Confusion – to be sung by James Brown – fall through. Tina Turner was suggested as a replacement, and it is now difficult to imagine anyone else doing it.

BEF were an entirely electronic outfit – something that reportedly gave Turner a surprise when she arrived to record the song. “Her and Roger Davies [Turner’s then manager] turned up to the studio and said, ‘Where’s the band?’ because she is used to recording with a band,” Martyn Ware later recalled. “And we pointed at the Fairlight and said, ‘Well here it is.’” All enjoyed the experience (“She gave a fantastic performance,” remembered Ware), and Turner, always a very forward-looking artist when it came to new production styles, sought to work with BEF again. The result was the Ware-produced cover of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together – the flame grown from Ball Of Confusion’s career-reigniting spark.

17: We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) (from ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’ soundtrack, 1985)

Hot on the heels of the success of her Private Dancer album, Turner recorded We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) for the 1985 blockbuster movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. She also starred in the film, alongside Mel Gibson, and received an NAACP Image Award For Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture. Securing its place among the best Tina Turner songs, We Don’t Need Another Hero earned the singer a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song. Laced with dramatic lyrics penned by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, the power ballad was the perfect canvas for Turner to show off the strength and range of her voice.

16: I Don’t Wanna Lose You (from ‘Foreign Affair’, 1989)

A pop-infused ballad with lyrics that speak honestly about a woman’s experiences with love, heartbreak, betrayal and fleeting moments of passion, I Don’t Wanna Lose You is, as ever, bolstered by Turner’s vocals, which add further emotion to the song. Appearing on Turner’s 1989 album, Foreign Affair, it was also a Top 10 single in the UK and in Belgium, and it remains one of the best Tina Turner songs from her imperial era.

15:  Baby, Get It On (with Ike Turner) (from ‘Acid Queen’, 1975)

A big disco number with Ike and Tina’s notable funky take on rock’n’roll, Baby, Get It On was the first single to be released from Tina Turner’s 1975 solo album, Acid Queen. The song is distinctive for a number of reasons, including the fact it features vocals from Ike, who usually stuck to producing the duo’s hits. It was also one of the last records recorded by the pair before their musical and personal separation.

14: Feel Good (with Ike Turner) (from ‘Feel Good’, 1972)

“Ike and I haven’t got the time to develop as songwriters ’cause we spend so much time in the studio and on the road,” Tina Turner said in 1975. “And there’s a lot of good music to be covered.” It’s true that Ike and Tina Turner were absolute workhorses, and the speed of their releases often meant a reliance on cover versions. That’s what makes their 1972 album, Feel Good, something to treasure. Nine out of its ten tracks were written by Tina, and the title track is an absolute belter: a driving funk explosion, beloved of knowledgeable DJs looking to fill dancefloors.

13: I Don’t Wanna Fight (from ‘What’s Love Got To Do With it’ soundtrack, 1993)

Turner recorded I Don’t Wanna Fight for the soundtrack to her 1993 biopic, What’s Love Got To Do With It, and it has subsequently appeared on various compilation albums, including 2023’s career-spanning Queen Of Rock’n’Roll. Bold, dramatic and cinematic, this track also subtly addresses the movie’s themes of abuse and destructive fighting within a marriage. Immediately taking its place among the best Tina Turner songs, I Don’t Wanna Fight charted at No.9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and subsequently garnered several Grammy nominations.

12: Private Dancer (from ‘Private Dancer’, 1984)

Written by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, Private Dancer was initially recorded for his group’s 1982 album, Love Over Gold. Deciding that the lyrics were unsuitable for a male singer, Knopfler dropped the song from the album’s tracklist, making way for Turner to give it the treatment only she could give. Edgy and sensual, Turner’s version appeared on the Private Dancer album, and quickly took its place among the best Tina Turner songs to date. Featuring the singer as a disillusioned ballroom dancer, the single’s promo clip was one of the most memorable music videos of the 80s.

11: GoldenEye (from ‘GoldenEye’ soundtrack, 1995)

One of Tina Turner’s many soundtrack contributions, GoldenEye was originally recorded for the James Bond movie of the same name, and also appeared on Turner’s Wildest Dreams album, released the following year. Written by U2’s Bono and The Edge, this smooth and sultry track remains one of the best James Bond theme songs, thanks in no small part to Turner’s unique voice.

Despite this, the recording nearly didn’t happen. “Bono sent me the worst demo,” Turner recalled. “He kind of threw it together as if he thought I wasn’t going to do it. This song, I didn’t even know what key to practice it in!” It was only when Bono personally reached out to Turner, begging her to reconsider, and asking for her ideas, that this entry among the best Tina Turner songs came together. As Turner recalled, “I actually had to come out of myself to make it a song. I’d never sung a song like that before, so it really gave me creativity in terms of making something out of something that was really rough.”

10: Better Be Good To Me (1984)

After half a decade of silence, Tina Turner made an explosive re-entry into the music world in 1984. Recording her fifth studio album, Private Dancer, at the age of 44, Turner’s comeback marked an empowering moment for women everywhere – and ushered in the age of her razor-sharp hairdo and bold new attitude. Taken from Private Dancer, Better Be Good To Me is a cool, smooth rock ballad which peaked at No.5 on the Billboard Hot 100, earning its place among the best Tina Turner songs. It also scored a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance in 1985.

9: Bold Soul Sister (with Ike Turner) (from ‘The Hunter’, 1969)

With the title clearly referring to its singer, Bold Soul Sister comes from one of Ike and Tina’s bluesiest albums, 1969’s The Hunter. Yet this track is a heavy, heavy funk monster among the best Tina Turner songs, with prominent bass and horns, and Turner’s half-spoken, half-whooping narrative on top. Contemporary footage of this classic track shows Tina and The Ikettes snaking and skulking around the stage, while staccato lyrics punctuate the relentless groove.

8: Acid Queen (1976)

Time and again, Turner has proven herself worthy of the title of Queen Of Rock And Roll, and her rendition of Acid Queen, released as a single from her Ike Turner-produced second solo album, Acid Queen, is one of those remarkable moments. The album was inspired by Tina’s role as The Acid Queen in the 1975 film version of The Who’s Tommy, and the title track’s release marked a poignant moment in her career: it was the last single she issued before leaving both the Ike And Tina Turner Revue and her abusive husband.

7: Tonight (with David Bowie) (from ‘Tonight’, 1984)

Originally written by David Bowie for Iggy Pop’s 1977 album Lust For Life, Tonight was given a reggae overhaul when Bowie re-recorded it for his 1984 album of the same name, drafting Turner in to duet on the track. The pair would perform the song live together on a number of occasions, including during Turner’s concert at the National Exhibition Centre, in Birmingham, in 1985. That version would go on to appear on the Tina Live In Europe album.

6: Viva La Money (from ‘Rough’, 1978)

Barely selling at the time, Tina Turner’s third solo album, 1978’s Rough, is ripe for reappraisal. The album features plenty of covers, among them Elton John’s The Bitch Is Back and Willie Nelson’s Funny How Time Slips Away, but Viva La Money is of a whole different magnitude. An obscure track by New Orleans artist Allen Toussaint, and originally featuring a relaxed (if cynical) vibe from Toussaint, Turner clearly heard the huge funk potential in it and absolutely rips her vocals to full effect. An underappreciated gem that deserves its place among the very best Tina Turner songs.

5: The Best (from ‘Foreign Affair’, 1989)

You haven’t lived if you’ve not found yourself belting out Tina Turner’s signature song, The Best, at the top of your lungs. A ubiquitous entry among lists of the best love songs, the best power ballads, the best 80s songs and, yes, the best Tina Turner songs, this empowering anthem was initially recorded by Bonnie Tyler in 1988, before Turner claimed it the following year for her Foreign Affair album. At the age of 50, Turner showed no sign of slowing down, and proved she could still put out tunes that stood among the best Tina Turner songs. “It will last,” she said of The Best in 2004. “It’s an anthem.”

4: River Deep – Mountain High (with Ike Turner) (from ‘River Deep – Mountain High’, 1966)

The uptempo River Deep – Mountain High was originally met with a lukewarm reception, especially in the US – white stations dismissed it as R&B and refused to give it airtime; Black stations considered the track to be “too white” for their audiences. Now rightly hailed as a classic, it has been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and named one of the 500 greatest songs of all time by both NME and Rolling Stone. Turner’s dynamic vocals carry the track, alongside the backing vocalists and over 20 musicians who brought it together.

“River Deep came into my life at the most appropriate time one could imagine,” Turner said in 2004. “I really needed something different. It was so different I could never remember the song after leaving Phil Spector [who produced the track]. That sound was so haunting and I would not arrange a show without it.”

3: Proud Mary (with Ike Turner) (from ‘Workin’ Together’, 1970)

One of Ike and Tina’s most iconic songs, Proud Mary won the pair a Grammy for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group; it also sold over a million copies worldwide and hit No.4 on the US Hot 100. Written by John Fogerty, the song was initially recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969, but soon became a staple of the Ike And Tina Turner Revue – and, later, a mainstay in Tina’s solo setlist. Live performances captured on What You Hear Is What You Get and Live In Paris: Olympia 1971 begin at a slow pace before Ike and Tina assault their audiences with an explosion of funk, rock and gospel music.

“For as long as I have travelled up and down with Proud Mary and performed it on television, and live, I had never met John Fogerty,” Tina said in 2004, revealing that she had finally connected with the songwriter on her most recent tour. “And I was so happy to see him, I kind of felt like [Proud Mary] was a baby that I had carried for so long and, finally, here’s the father!”

4: River Deep – Mountain High (with Ike Turner) (1966)

This uptempo song was originally met with a lukewarm reception, especially in the US – white stations dismissed it as R&B and refused to give it airtime; black stations considered the track to be “too white”. Now rightly hailed as a classic, it has been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and named one of the 500 greatest songs of all time by both NME and Rolling Stone. Tina’s dynamic vocals carry the track, alongside the backing vocalists and over 20 musicians who brought it together.

3: Proud Mary (with Ike Turner) (from ‘Workin’ Together’, 1970)

One of Ike and Tina’s most iconic songs, Proud Mary won the pair a Grammy for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group; it also sold over a million copies worldwide and hit No.4 on the US Hot 100. Written by John Fogerty, the song was initially recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969, but soon became a staple of the Ike And Tina Turner Revue – and, later, a mainstay in Tina’s solo setlist. Live performances captured on What You Hear Is What You Get and Live In Paris: Olympia 1971 begin at a slow pace before Ike and Tina assault their audiences with an explosion of funk, rock and gospel music.

“For as long as I have travelled up and down with Proud Mary and performed it on television, and live, I had never met John Fogerty,” Tina said in 2004, revealing that she had finally connected with the songwriter on her most recent tour. “And I was so happy to see him, I kind of felt like [Proud Mary] was a baby that I had carried for so long and, finally, here’s the father!”

2: What’s Love Got To Do With It (from ‘Private Dancer’, 1984)

Tina Turner’s only Billboard chart-topper, What’s Love Got To Do With It scored three Grammys: Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2012, the mellow, jazzy ballad, paired with Turner’s raspy voice, remains one of the best Tina Turner songs of all time, and yet again confirmed the singer’s status as a musical icon. It later gave its name to Turner’s 1993 biopic, starring Angela Bassett as the defiant, era-defining star.

1: Let’s Stay Together (from ‘Private Dancer’, 1984)

Turner’s cover of Al Green’s hit Let’s Stay Together served as her comeback moment following her split from Ike and her stint singing in ballrooms across the US. Produced by British electronic artist Martyn Ware, it was a watershed both for Turner’s career and her personal musical development. “All of it was strange and different,” Turner has said, admitting she felt lost at first, without a band, and only recording her vocals to machines. “I love the song, and I’ll sing it, and whatever comes out, that’s it. But it was a success – very much so.”

Topping our list of the best Tina Turner songs, Let’s Stay Together broke the UK Top 10 in 1983, hit No.1 on the US Dance Chart and set Turner on the path of superstardom. Included on the following year’s Private Dancer album, Let’s Stay Together proved that Tina Turner would never go away.

Buy the ‘Queen Of Rock’n’Roll’ collection and more on vinyl at the Dig! store.

Original article: 12 February 2021

Updated: 25 November 2023

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