jenna wortham

Hey, all you Still Processing listeners out there. Do you want to help me and Wesley settle a little summertime bet? Do you know the song “Before I Let Go” by Frankie Beverly and Maze?

wesley morris

OK, when is the first time you heard it? Do you just stop what you’re — do you drop your tray of food when it’s on in a restaurant, and you just got to go dance somewhere? What does the song mean to you?

jenna wortham

And even if you’ve never heard of it, we want to know. Please record a short voice memo with your relationship to the song “Before I Let Go” and send it to us. Our email is stillprocessing@nytimes.com.

And stay tuned.

wesley morris

Yes, we’ll explain later. But now on to the show.

So Jenna, it’s 1988. We’re in Rio de Janeiro with the one and the only ever, Tina Turner.

jenna wortham

Oh my god, I’m already so happy. [LAUGHS]

archived recording (tina turner)

[SINGING “BETTER BE GOOD TO ME”]

wesley morris

She is rocking this crowd. This concert set a record, right? It’s 182,000 people, which is the most any 182,000 people have ever paid together to see one solo performance.

jenna wortham

Wow.

wesley morris

This tour had 230 dates in 25 countries.

jenna wortham

I cannot believe Ms. Tina was working that hard.

wesley morris

230 dates!

jenna wortham

Unreal.

wesley morris

OK, the hair is enormous, right?

jenna wortham

Yeah.

wesley morris

It is blowing.

jenna wortham

Oh, yeah.

wesley morris

And she’s got this fringed —

jenna wortham

Leather fringe, of course.

wesley morris

And it’s a mini dress, of course. I just got to say that she is already sweating. This concert is 11 minutes old.

jenna wortham

Well, what we’re also seeing, though, is someone who is just in their element.

archived recording (tina turner)

[SINGING “BETTER BE GOOD TO ME”]

jenna wortham

And she looks as fit and as healthy and as vibrant as I’ve ever seen her. How old is she here?

wesley morris

48 years old.

jenna wortham

Yes!

wesley morris

She just kicked the mic. This is the breakdown. This is Jenna’s favorite part of the song, even though —

jenna wortham

Is it a bridge?

wesley morris

It’s a breakdown. It’s a breakdown.

jenna wortham

Wait, is it a bridge, though? Honey —

wesley morris

No.

jenna wortham

Oh, OK.

wesley morris

No, this is the breakdown.

jenna wortham

OK, OK. Tina Turner is someone I regret never seeing live.

wesley morris

Yeah, I mean, just to be one of those people screaming Tina Turner’s name?

jenna wortham

Ugh.

archived recording

Tina! Tina! Tina! Tina!

wesley morris

Well, we do have an occasion to be screaming her name again, though. There is this HBO documentary about her life called “Tina.” It’s on HBO, HBO Max. It’s directed by Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin. And it’s basically the story of her life from childhood to her glorious 80, 81-year-old self. And today, you and I are going to use the occasion of this documentary to talk about Tina Turner, not just as a story, but as a musician, a performer, an experience.

[music]
jenna wortham

I’m Jenna Wortham.

wesley morris

I’m Wesley Morris. We’re two culture writers at The New York Times, and we love Tina Turner.

jenna wortham

[LAUGHS] And this is Still Processing.

[music]

I’m someone who, my biggest reference point for Tina Turner, for better or for worse, is the 1993 movie “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” starring Angela Bassett.

wesley morris

Sure, that’s lots of people’s.

jenna wortham

And of course, “What’s Love Got to Do With It” is a biopic of the life of Tina Turner and her relationship with Ike, and then moving out into her own journey. And I mean, it’s great. I re-watched it after I watching the documentary. And it made me realize, though, how, as incredible as that movie is, it’s not sufficient for her life story. It is so painful to watch. It doesn’t lean enough into how much she shaped and changed music.

wesley morris

Right, and people who know Tina Turner through “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” the movie, they know this story of a woman who overcame an abusive marriage to an abusive spouse. But this was not a story that women were telling about their lives. It was a thing they kept hidden. It was a thing they were meant to feel ashamed for having survived. But in the culture, there were lots of stories about domestic abuse. Those narratives were in the culture. They were TV movies of the week. But so few of those stories involved a woman triumphing over that dynamic of abuse.

And this documentary is somewhat — it’s claiming, in some ways, to be liberating her from that narrative. But in order for the documentary to do that, it has to take you back through all of this pain and trauma. I mean, until this HBO Max movie, the major Tina Turner document is the book “I, Tina” from 1986. And I mean, I would describe that as basically an oral history of Tina Turner’s life as interpreted by Kurt Loder, who, Jenna, I know you remember from MTV News.

jenna wortham

Yes.

wesley morris

This is the story of how she got rid of Ike. And what you learned from this documentary is that she thought that by writing this book, she could put it to rest. I do think that there is something about this particular relationship and its dynamic that is very hard to liberate Tina Turner from.

jenna wortham

I also wonder, too, if the cultural narratives around domestic violence were salacious, right? Like a very reductive approach towards it. And I’m surmising that based on the way interviewers are approaching Tina. They keep asking her over and over again, like why didn’t you leave him?

wesley morris

Yeah, that’s a great point.

jenna wortham

Ike was controlling the money. He was controlling her whereabouts. He had surveillance on her. The media is hounding Tina about her, quote, “complicity.” One of the weirdest things about the documentary is that it is almost entirely an indictment of the media and critical of the ways in which people won’t let Tina move past Ike.

wesley morris

Right.

jenna wortham

And it’s also really incredible. I found that commentary to be incredible of how harmful it was for Tina to relive this relationship. But the documentary also is that it’s reliving the relationship. He keeps showing up.

wesley morris

And he was controlling the music, too. And to be fair to him, he is an architect of American rock and roll. He was heavily invested in the R&B and blues wing of things. But when it came to working with Tina, she had to work in that style, too. And what Tina could do as a singer was ultimately limited by what Ike as a musician could imagine her singing. That was the music he wanted to be making, not the music she wanted to be making necessarily.

archived recording (tina turner)

(SINGING) The way you love me sometimes like I’m going to lose my mind. Although I —

wesley morris

But you watch these old Ike and Tina performances, and you don’t even notice him. She’s the person magnetizing you to the front of the stage.

jenna wortham

I was thinking about that, the stage representing this bubble of liberation for her. The only time — Ike’s not going to hit her on stage. He’s not messing with the money like that. But you can see that once she gets on stage — and she’s written about this. I mean, she would sometimes go on stage sick, weak, ill, still bloodied, still black-eyed.

wesley morris

She had tuberculosis for eight years!

jenna wortham

And talk about someone going from one field to another, right? Working in a cotton field to then working on this damn stage, you know.

wesley morris

Yeah, Tina’s from Nutbush, Tennessee. Her family was in the sharecropping business, more or less.

jenna wortham

But she still had to pick cotton.

wesley morris

Yeah, she herself picked cotton many a time.

jenna wortham

But my point really is that’s the one time she has freedom because he can’t say shit. There’s nothing he can do while she’s out there. And there’s a part in the documentary where she’s talking to the crowd. And she’s like —

archived recording (tina turner)

Tonight, I want to speak to us women, you see, because —

jenna wortham

— it’s time for the men to stop running things. Men are going to do what they want to do.

archived recording (tina turner)

— always manage to get what they want. That’s right.

jenna wortham

And you know what, ladies?

archived recording (tina turner)

Whatever’s out there in the streets must be good ‘cause your man’s been out there a long time.

jenna wortham

In the background, Ike is just playing, right? He now has to be submissive. He has to keep playing. She’s going to talk as long as she wants. And it’s a small thing, but it’s actually a major thing in some way. You know what I mean? That was where she just got to be free, as free as she could be during that time.

wesley morris

Right, well, you talking about her talking to the ladies in the audience like that reminds me of this moment from their 1971 live album. They do a cover of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You.” And in the middle of the fog, she starts talking about some other things that ladies need to keep in mind.

jenna wortham

Oh.

archived recording (tina turner)

I want you to —

I want you to give it to me.

wesley morris

You know, things that he might not be able to do, or he needs to do better.

jenna wortham

Wow. Ms. Turner, if you’re nasty.

archived recording (tina turner)

[GUTTURAL GASPING]

jenna wortham

[LAUGHS]

archived recording (tina turner)

Sock it. Sock it.

jenna wortham

Tina!

archived recording (tina turner)

I want you to come on, sock it to me, babe! Oh!

wesley morris

I love this moment because it ultimately is about her giving herself the orgasm. He’s on some other part of the stage, just playing his guitar.

jenna wortham

Right.

wesley morris

But he’s somewhere else. This is her moment. Every time she does it, she is giving herself this extreme pleasure.

archived recording (tina turner)

Oh!

wesley morris

And it was a pleasure that was sort of alien to her in her house. And as long as she was with Ike, he was going to push her to sing his music even when she didn’t like it. And her voice, that voice could do so much more than Ike’s brand of R&B and blues.

jenna wortham

That’s right.

wesley morris

But she did have these moments of revelation in terms of what else she could be doing with her singing. And the first one of those happens in 1966 when they make this deal to do a song with Phil Spector who had seen her and Ike perform. And he’s just like, I got to make a record with her. And he does. Ike permits her to make the record. But Phil Spector, mad man that he is and psychopath that he turns out to be, did not want Ike in the studio at all —

jenna wortham

Oh, wow.

wesley morris

— to make this record. And it’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” one of Phil Spector’s masterpieces, one of Tina Turner’s great singing performances. And in the documentary, she talks about it just being this revelation for her.

archived recording (tina turner)

It was so big, and my voice sounded so different, standing on top of all that music. (SINGING) I love you, baby, like a flower loves the spring.

wesley morris

Because she just didn’t know she could sing any other way, but to scream the way Ike wanted her to.

archived recording (tina turner)

(SINGING) And I love you, baby, like a schoolboy loves his pad. And I love you, baby, river deep, mountain high.

wesley morris

And here she’s got a melody. She’s so good with it. There’s so much music in the song. I think there were three guitarists and three drummers and three bass players and all these strings and all these other singers. And she has got to climb all the way on top of those people —

jenna wortham

Wow.

wesley morris

— in order to be heard. And she does it and she doesn’t have to scream the whole song to do it. And she can’t believe she climbed all the way up there.

archived recording (tina turner)

(SINGING) — mountain high. If I lost you, would I cry? Oh, I love you, baby. Baby, baby, baby.

jenna wortham

I love this song so much. I still think —

wesley morris

Perfect song!

jenna wortham

— she sounds like she really believes what she’s singing in a different way. There’s something else she’s accessing in that song, and I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what she’s thinking about. I don’t know who she’s imagining that she loves like that rag doll.

wesley morris

Well, she found Phil Spector quite strange, but she also loved his belief in what else she could do as a singer. And you can hear it in the song.

jenna wortham

The music itself is really reverential. It’s very holy. It’s like a different kind of choir. Do you know what I mean? It has this —

wesley morris

It’s celestial.

jenna wortham

Yeah, it is celestial. That’s a really beautiful way to say it. It is celestial. And it’s lifting her up, and it does feel like this moment where she’s tethered to her true talent without him around. And maybe that’s the first time that’s happened in her career.

wesley morris

But in 1964, in that moment that the song doesn’t do well in the U.S., Ike basically wins. It hands Ike a victory. It was proof to him that the way his approach to R&B and the blues was the way that they should be going, instead of trying to keep working with that Phil Spector sound. And she just came to resent singing that that style of R&B, that style of blues. But it’s what she continued to do for another 10 years.

jenna wortham

Mm, wow.

wesley morris

So he had control over the music, even when she was writing songs. She wrote “Nutbush City Limits,” which is one of my favorite Ike and Tina songs. But she still continued to do things his way.

jenna wortham

I mean, talk about an extension of sharecropping. I mean, I think so much of Tina’s story is —

wesley morris

Oh, great point, yeah.

jenna wortham

— she grew up in an abusive home, watching her father abuse her mother. And then her mother leaves. And she grows up with her grandmother. And she grows up feeling very unwanted, unloved. And that makes it really hard to ever believe or have confidence in yourself, until she does. But so much about that story is just about that — about these cycles that we inherit and what it takes to, I guess, get off the merry-go-round.

wesley morris

It’s interesting, though, that you put it that way, though, because she does not present any — everything that she’s feeling inside isn’t really obvious in the presentation. And I think the question was Ike’s style was getting old. They have a huge hit with their cover of “Proud Mary,” the Creedence Clearwater Revival song.

archived recording (tina turner)

We’re going to take the beginning of this song and do it easy. But then we’re going to do the finish rough. That’s the way we do “Proud Mary.” (SINGING) Rolling —

wesley morris

With all due respect to John Fogerty, who wrote “Proud Mary,” their version of that song is basically the version. And what you hear is the power of her as a vocalist. And the way that she sang, the hugeness, the feeling, the strength, that was hugely important to creating this whole universe of how rock and roll is sung by white people.

archived recording (tina turner)

(SINGING) Big wheel keep on turning, turning. Proud Mary keep on burning, burning. Rolling, rolling, yeah, rolling on the river. Say we’re rolling, rolling —

wesley morris

And it’s like we’re talking about Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, Rod Stewart, all these people who wanted to emulate that force and that feeling. So, on the one hand, she’s incredibly influential to American music, but personally, she is in this little box that this man is keeping her in. I would say part of what this relationship with Ike was costing her artistically was the freedom to do what she wanted to do, and to miss out on all this cultural stuff that was happening, right?

Disco was happening at the later stages of their working together, right? Disco was beginning to happen. And I’m not saying she wanted to make disco. I can definitely tell you that she wanted to make rock and roll, which was, at that point, what American music basically was, more or less. And that was the music that was speaking to her. That’s the music she wanted to make. And she couldn’t really do it with Ike, who was still wedded to this 1950s way of thinking about rock and roll. And she leaves him. And part of leaving him, obviously, she’s leaving the marriage.

She’s leaving the domestic marriage, what was even left of it at that point. But she’s also leaving this creative marriage and going out to figure out who she wants to be as an artist, and not who this guy wants her to be.

jenna wortham

I’ve been thinking a lot about why rock? And I mean, I’ve been thinking about it more from a philosophical perspective. Like, what does rock represent that what she was doing before didn’t represent? And I think there must have been some fatigue and just resistance to the performance of that intimacy, right? If you think about what R&B is all about, it’s about seduction. It’s these romantic ballads. It’s love songs. And rock songs are love songs, too, but they’re also about being independent or not being independent. And I think maybe that’s what she was drawn to. Maybe Tina was drawn to this idea of, both in a literal sense, her musical independence, but then also this thematic independence, too. And what would it feel like to be singing these types of songs now?

wesley morris

And she leaves the marriage. It’s a very dramatic thing in, I believe, 1976. She physically gets out. And then over the years, she manages to get a divorce. But during this period, she’s performing in Vegas. The arrangements aren’t great. But she is working her tail feather off, to quote her own song. And the shows are doing well. People are coming to see her. But eventually, this Australian manager named Roger Davies sees her. And he’s captivated, as one would be. And they start cooking stuff up. And she records “Private Dancer.” And that album “Private Dancer” comes out in ‘84, and it is an enormous hit.

archived recording (tina turner)

(SINGING) What’s love got to do, got to do with it?

wesley morris

“What’s Love Got to Do With It” is the first official U.S. single and is huge. And the singing that she’s doing on this album is just different than the singing that she was doing with Ike, where when she was part of Ike and Tina, she was expected to do a lot of wailing and a lot of screaming. And “Private Dancer,” the genius of that album, in some ways, is that it’s softer, so that when she lets loose, it doesn’t hit you more than the ‘70s and ‘60s stuff, but it just hits you differently. That album sells 10 million copies around the world.

jenna wortham

Wow.

wesley morris

And it’s the beginning of this incredible 1980s for Tina Turner. And this is the decade where she actually reclaims that voice and is figuring out what else it can do. So let’s just blow through the things that she accomplished in this three to four-year period. She wins four Grammys in ‘85.

archived recording

And the record of the year is “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” Tina Turner.

wesley morris

Technically, one of them was for song of the year. She didn’t write that song, but it was about Tina Turner. It wasn’t about the guy that wrote the song. She plays Auntie Entity in “Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome.”

archived recording (tina turner)

And the law says, bust a deal, face the wheel.

wesley morris

It has two hits off that soundtrack, including “We Don’t Need Another Hero.”

jenna wortham

Amazing.

wesley morris

She performs at Live Aid in my city, Philadelphia, the dearly departed J.F.K. stadium, with Mick Jagger.

archived recording (tina turner)

(SINGING) I know you like to tease.

archived recording (mick jagger)

(SINGING) Please, baby, please.

wesley morris

She turned down the role of Celie in “The Color Purple.”

jenna wortham

[GASPS] What?

wesley morris

Yes, she did. I lived that story, she said.

jenna wortham

Wow.

wesley morris

And she’s selling out every stadium she’s performing in.

jenna wortham

Amazing.

wesley morris

And this is my favorite little tidbit from this little stretch of Tina Turner. She’s on “We Are the World.”

jenna wortham

Oh my god.

archived recording (tina turner)

(SINGING) We are the world. We are the children.

wesley morris

So I mean, just to harp on this a little bit more, this is all happening to this woman who was in her mid 40s.

jenna wortham

I love it.

wesley morris

But you said something to me earlier that really struck me. And it was this idea that even when she is singing at the peak of her powers at the height of her voice, there’s something — she’s holding something back.

jenna wortham

That was my intuitive feel watching her, and I’m still sitting with it, because there was something tactile in that “River Deep” record that I never sensed again. And in my mind’s eye, I feel like we’re watching a woman who has learned what it means to save parts of herself for herself. And I find so much pleasure in that because it’s not unconscious restraint, right? It’s earned. Tina is just done with her personal life being a headline. And there seems to be this knowledge of, I’m giving you everything I have. But I’m still keeping the most precious parts of Tina for Tina. And it’s just — it’s so admirable to watch.

[music]
wesley morris

Jenna.

jenna wortham

Yes.

wesley morris

Do you remember “Divas Live“?

jenna wortham

Kind of. It has this shadowy place in my memory, kind of like Oprah’s “Legends Ball.” I always know it’s happening, and I catch it kind of late, so, vaguely.

wesley morris

Well, VH1 used to gather America’s greatest living singers to come together for one night that they called “VH1 Divas Live.” And in the second installment, the first performer was none other than Tina Turner.

jenna wortham

Ugh, so cool.

wesley morris

And the opening shot of the whole night is this limo pulling up. The first thing you see is Tina Turner’s legs. She’s just a pair of legs getting out of that limo, walking up the red carpet.

jenna wortham

But walking in the way Tina walks with a little jauntiness.

wesley morris

Yes, this is 1999. Tina Turner is somewhere in her 60s, or almost 60. And the hair is shorter. It’s blonder.

jenna wortham

More bangs, which is great. It’s really iconic Tina. This is one of my favorite of her hairstyles.

wesley morris

You can hear the revving engine of her song “The Best.” The room is going crazy because they know what’s about to happen.

archived recording (tina turner)

(SINGING) I call you when I need you. My heart’s on fire.

Come to me, come to me —

wesley morris

(SINGING) Wild and wild.

jenna wortham

Yeah. [LAUGHS]

wesley morris

Oh, I love this move! This move where she just starts marching across the stage, but then she’ll stop every time she puts her foot down and just, like —

jenna wortham

It’s a little stretch.

archived recording (tina turner)

(SINGING) Simply the best! Better than all the rest.

jenna wortham

Yeah, there’s something about that kinetic energy that she’s always had in her dance movements that are so unique to her. There’s so much energy that just wants to come out of her.

wesley morris

So much energy always coming out of her! She’s a tornado! She is a gale force wind in body and voice.

She ends the song and she gets down on one knee.

jenna wortham

Kneels.

wesley morris

And just soaks in the adulation.

jenna wortham

Because she’s just so grateful. She’s just soaking it in. It’s not that she’s full of ego. It’s more like self-respect and respect of the space. And it’s just not — she’s so honored to be there. And the gratitude that her life is as rich as it is, it’s a lesson of — I mean, again, it’s just a lesson in self-preservation and a lesson in what it means when you know your worth.

wesley morris

She’s so happy to be wherever she is when she’s performing. That is the thing that I love most about watching Tina Turner. And at this point, you and I have talked about her as a musician, as a singer with a voice, and how she took the voice back, right? She reclaimed it when she got out of that marriage. But she also had to take back her image — the hair and the clothes. And the number one thing that she took back in order to get to a moment like 1999, “VH1 Divas Live,” is her name. Ike Turner made Anna Mae Bullock, Tina Turner. He didn’t ask her. He just did it. And he modeled her on — was it Sheena, Queen of the Jungle? And he trademarked her name, which I didn’t even know that she knew.

jenna wortham

Wow.

wesley morris

The greatest scene — I mean, I don’t know. I think most people will say that the big limo fight is the greatest scene in “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” the movie. But I would say the big scene for me is the courtroom scene.

archived recording

It means you’re going to walk out of here with absolutely nothing.

archived recording (tina turner)

Except my name. I’ll give up all that other stuff, but only if I get to keep my name. I worked too hard for it, Your Honor.

wesley morris

Just give me my name. I mean, but it’s more than taking her name if you think about the fact that it wasn’t even her name. Do you know what I mean?

jenna wortham

I know.

wesley morris

It’s like —

jenna wortham

But she understands the sweat equity and the worldwide recognition of that name. She wants it.

wesley morris

What is she going to do, go to Vegas and be Anna Mae Bullock? No, M.F. Because whatever this —

jenna wortham

The artist formerly known as —

wesley morris

Right. I mean, whatever value this name has is because I gave it value. You don’t deserve this name. And so it’s not just her name that she takes back. It’s her look.

jenna wortham

Yes.

wesley morris

I think that the hair and the clothes are a huge part of her reimagining herself. And so by 1984, if for the first time you’re seeing Tina Turner in that “What’s Love Got to Do With It” video and she’s got that new hair —

jenna wortham

Ugh.

wesley morris

— that fireworks explosion geyser of hair?

jenna wortham

Yes, yes!

wesley morris

That simultaneously, to me, is both a lion’s mane and a headdress.

jenna wortham

Ooh.

wesley morris

Right? It feels very much like a chief’s headdress. But she also mentions in “I, Tina” that that long, dark hair is connecting her to her Cherokee and Navajo roots. Her mother’s side of the family, they’re Native American. And that connection, she really feels it. She says she’s always felt it. That hair is just so important, you know? And it just doesn’t look ridiculous on her because think about all the Tina Turner Halloween costumes you’ve seen.

jenna wortham

I was thinking about that, too, about how her look became a little bit of a caricature. But it was still never making fun of her.

wesley morris

Yes, you can’t fill these shoes. People look ridiculous —

jenna wortham

That’s right.

wesley morris

— playing Tina Turner. But you can’t fill that out.

jenna wortham

Right, right, right.

wesley morris

The barrier is not just that you can’t fill the wig and you can’t fill the denim jacket, you can’t fill the leather mini skirt. It’s that there is an energy that she is giving off in these clothes, in this hair, that is so much about self-confidence and belief in herself as a sexual being.

jenna wortham

It also seems, too, that part of that embracing her sexuality is embracing her sensuality, you know? There is something about the way, as the love inside of her grows for herself, you can feel it more. And I think she, in the excerpts — because you’ve been texting me excerpts of the book “I, Tina” all week, which has been a highlight of my week, just a pure delight — she talks a bit about that. And then she also talks about how she used to hate what she saw in the mirror. And she kind of assumed that the lack of love in her relationship with Ike was due to some defect in her, rather than being a function, right, of their own illnesses. And it’s really incredible to see her when she’s undergoing this transformation you’re talking about — seeing her embrace the parts of herself that she loves the most, seeing her love her legs, love her heritage, love her hair and love her face. And she didn’t have the same kind of Madonna or Cher-esque approaches to adornment that obscured her face. A lot of musicians and celebrities at that level play with their image so much. And they love to play with different looks and different personas. And Tina’s not — that’s not what Tina’s about. Tina’s all about enhancing what’s there, which I really see is an act of self-love.

wesley morris

Yeah, also self-belief, right?

jenna wortham

And self-belief, yes.

wesley morris

I don’t need to be 20 different people. I just need to be this.

jenna wortham

It took me this long to be me, and I am going to be me as much as I can. It also seems, too, that for Tina, the big transformations that we see in her music — her looks, her hair, her persona, her life — they actually all start inside of her in this moment in the late ‘70s, when she encounters Buddhism. And then, of course, in the research for the show I’ve been reading parts of her book “Happiness Becomes You,” where she talks about how she’s applied the principles of Buddhism to her life, which essentially makes her a dharma teacher, to someone who relays the principles to modern life to help make it accessible to other people. So I mean, to me, that’s pretty amazing. But one thing she writes about in the book is that a sound engineer actually mentioned it to her. You know, Tina, have you ever thought about chanting? This is the height of the abuse, the height of her, just the — I guess, the peak of her depression, where she’s really feeling trapped and unsure about how to move forward in her life. And she’s able to regain possession of her mind. Because when you’re in an abusive dynamic, you can’t trust yourself.

wesley morris

Yeah, I think I was really struck in “What’s Love Got to Do With It” when she finds the Buddhism. And I remember seeing that at the Cheltenham Mall in Philadelphia with a bunch of presumably non-Buddhist Christians.

archived recording 1

What? I don’t know what — I don’t know what I’m saying sounds.

archived recording 2

I know, I know, I know it. It feels strange, but it’s chanting. I’m a Buddhist now. And when you chant, Anna, you can see things clearly. It’s like life’s mirror.

wesley morris

And there was something about her repetition of that mantra over and over again. And it takes on a kind of speaking in tongues quality for anybody familiar with Pentecostalism.

archived recording

[CHANTING]

wesley morris

There is a way in which her chanting is — it is empowering her, and it is making her stronger. And it felt in the audience at the time foreign to a lot of people watching that. But I also think once it became clear what it was bringing up in her, and what it was allowing her to do, it was pretty clear that we’re just talking about God. And that was powerful, watching her embrace spirituality to get her out of this marriage.

jenna wortham

I think people don’t know what to do with spirituality that they don’t understand. And I really love how Tina is, across all medias and mediums, is talking about how she was transformed from the inside and how that allowed her to start making these bigger changes in her life. The first tier of emancipation for her is leaving Ike. And then the second tier of this emancipation is learning that she’s enough. I mean, it’s a really deep moment, actually, where she’s like, I’m looking in the mirror. How come no one loves the woman that I am? And it’s really emotional.

And I think a lot of women, and especially Black women, relate to that feeling of growing up in a culture that tells you, you’re not pretty enough and that your natural hair texture is not enough and that your skin color is not enough. And it’s like when Beyonce says, I can never be too perfect to feel this worthless. You understand that women struggle with these demons, despite the outward trappings of success. They still struggle with feeling valued and loved. And it makes me feel more sane, knowing I’m not the only one that has those thoughts — that these incredibly famous, gorgeous, brilliant women also have these thoughts, you know? But one of the things for Tina is the chanting helps her achieve this calm inside that allows her to be open, to love.

wesley morris

Well, it’s interesting that you’re looking at it as this Black woman sort of trying to love herself, too. Because part of the disconnect, I think, in 1993 in the movie theater, was that you were watching this Black woman who grew up in the church suddenly discover her true power through some non-Christian religion. And I think that, to me, is also indicative of somehow Tina Turner’s relationship with Black culture. And how when I was a kid, when the Tina explosion happened, when “Private Dancer” came out, it was really interesting that in Philadelphia, the big Black pop music station where all the jams were, they didn’t play “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”

jenna wortham

That’s interesting.

wesley morris

You did not hear “Better Be Good to Me” on Power 99, WUSO. There’s always been this tension about who we embrace in the moment. And I feel like Black America’s embrace of Tina feels, to me, retroactive in some way. But I think there’s something about Buddhism that just — it made her seem even more foreign, in some ways, than relatable.

jenna wortham

Yeah, there is this undercurrent of tension about Tina Turner’s relationship to her Blackness and whether or not she’s accepted by Black people, whether or not she’s rejected Black culture. And I think the judgment and criticism about how Black women, especially when they’re famous, live their lives and whether or not they’re Black enough. You saw it with — we talk about it with Whitney Houston. There is this inherent cruelty when you don’t conform, right? Or when you do things, you march to the beat of your own drummer, it’s like there is this really interesting fear-based reaction to criticize and shame as not enough.

wesley morris

I mean, you get put through this ringer of authenticity. I also think this is somebody who has always understood who she was. There’s this passage in “I, Tina,” where she talks about going to Europe when “River Deep, Mountain High” is a hit over there — a bigger hit over there than it was over here. And she is talking about how comfortable she is in France. And she’s like, don’t get me wrong, I’m Black. Nobody’s hair is nappier than mine is. But I also feel like I have been here and that I am somehow — maybe it’s my mixed blood. Maybe it’s working for all those white people in Tennessee all those years. Maybe it’s going to the Black church all that time. But I’m a person who, in some ways, exists beyond Black and white. I’m somebody who exists as myself. And it’s beyond culture. She literally says, I believe that I was universal. And I got to say, I think so, too. You watch her in those stadiums, Jenna?

jenna wortham

No, she is absolutely at home. And I think we forget, too, that what we all imagine are the most transformative, exhilarating, formative years of your life — your teens, your 20s, and your 30s — being bound up in this abusive workhorse relationship. And so to hear about the freedom and the liberation she experiences in her 40s and her 50s is just so incredible.

wesley morris

But there are still mountain peaks. There are still achievements left for this woman. And one of them is being re-inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

jenna wortham

Brm, brm, brm! Yes, this has to happen!

wesley morris

Yes, indeed.

jenna wortham

This has to happen. This has to happen this year.

wesley morris

She is in with Ike Turner. They’re in there as Ike and Tina. Now she’s on the ballot for induction as a solo artist. And I’m going to tell you, the competition is fierce. It’s like Tina Turner, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Todd Rundgren — hello, Philadelphia — Kate Bush —

jenna wortham

Wow.

wesley morris

— one of my heroes. I mean, L.L. Cool J, Chaka Khan, Dionne Warwick.

jenna wortham

Oh my god.

wesley morris

And Jenna, even if she doesn’t get it, I was just on the induction fan vote Rock and Roll Hall of Fame page. And I’m looking at this leaderboard. And in fifth place of the five slots that the fans most want, fifth place, Foo Fighters. Fourth place, Iron Maiden. Third place, The Go-Go’s. Number two, Fela F-ing Kuti. Fela Kuti!

jenna wortham

Wow.

wesley morris

But number one, by a not insignificant margin over Fela Kuti —

jenna wortham

Oh my god!

wesley morris

— the one and only Tina Turner.

jenna wortham

Ugh!

wesley morris

So even if the people who vote for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame don’t want Tina Turner in it this year —

jenna wortham

The people do!

wesley morris

— the people do. The people do. So Rock Hall voters —

jenna wortham

Do the right thing.

wesley morris

— y’all know what to do. You better be good to her. Be good to her.

[music]

And that’s our show! Still Processing is produced at The New York Times by Elyssa Dudley and Mahima Chablani.

jenna wortham

This week, we have an extra special gluten-free vegan nut-free treat. We made you a playlist of Wesley’s favorite Tina Turner songs. It lives at nytimes.com/stillprocessing. Our editors are Sara Sarasohn and Sasha Weiss.

wesley morris

Marion Lozano mixes the show.

jenna wortham

Digital production by Mahima Chablani, Des Ibekwe and Julia Simon.

wesley morris

Special thanks to Lisa Tobin and Wendy Dorr.

jenna wortham

Our theme music is by Kindness. It is called “World Restart” from the album “Otherness.”

wesley morris

Just keep your fingers crossed for dame Tina to get Rock and Roll Hall of Fame certified again.

jenna wortham

See you next week.

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