Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Inside Tina Turner's Empowering Final Album, 1999's 'Twenty Four Seven,' 20 Years Later
This month, GRAMMY-winning rock icon Tina Turner turns 80, and though retired, her voice is still resonating as loud as ever. In 2018 alone, Turner earned the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award and released her second memoir, My Love Story. Turner’s legendary impact on music history has also risen to the surface yet again in the form of a musical, "Tina: The Tina Turner Musical," which hits Broadway on Nov. 7. The soundtrack is composed of Tina Turner classics, and the subject herself served as the primary consultant. Turner, whom Mick Jagger credits for some of his own signature dance moves, helped train the Tina impersonators, describing to the New York TImes in a September interview how she had to pause her retirement momentarily in order to demonstrate how to “do the pony.”
Tina Turner is, in the words of Oprah Winfrey, “The world’s first ever black female rock n’ roll star.” Capturing audiences with her deep, powerful voice and energetic stage presence, Turner paved the way for stars like Whitney Houston and Beyoncé. She showed the world that women of color can be solo rock artists, too. Throughout her decades-long solo career, Turner sold out stadiums all over the world, accumulating fame for her remarkable live performances, chart-topping songs like “We Don’t Need Another Hero” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” and of course, her iconic hair. According to the African American Registry, Turner sold more tickets than any solo artist in history. Still, her triumphant solo career did not come easily.
Turner, whose music has won her eight GRAMMY Awards from 25 nominations, was subjected to years of physical and emotional abuse from her musical counterpart and first husband, Ike Turner, before finally breaking free in 1976. Her early success began as a member of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Many do not know that the young singer, then known as Anna Mae Bullock, had no say in her own renaming and rebranding, which Ike patented behind the scenes before the release of their first album with Sue Records. He did it “so he could own me,” Turner explains in a 2013 interview with Winfrey. She describes in her 1989 memoir, I, Tina, that finally escaping abuse in 1976 also meant accepting the fact that her music career may be over.
“What was it like when I walked out and left Ike? Yeah - I was afraid. But sometimes you’ve got to let everything go - purge yourself. I did that. I had nothing, but I had my freedom. My message here … is: If you are unhappy with anything…whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.” Turner wrote.
Cleaning houses, food stamps, and the generosity of friends got the Tennessee-born musician through these most trying moments in her life. It wasn’t until 1983 that she managed to make her comeback, signing with Capitol Records and winning Billboard’s Comeback of the Year award with her first solo album, Private Dancer.
“I didn’t have anybody. Really, no foundation in life, so I had to make my own way. Always, from the start. I had to go out in the world and become strong, to discover my mission in life," Turner wrote in My Love Story.
This year also marks the 20-year anniversary of Turner’s 10th and final album, Twenty Four Seven, and its uplifting messages of female empowerment couldn’t be more relevant. In the era of #MeToo, survivors are looking to role models like Turner more than ever for both comfort and inspiration.
“Whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.” - Tina Turner, I, Tina, 1989
On the album’s first single, “When the Heartache is Over,” the sultry-voiced diva sings with an audible smile about the joys of being liberated from an unhealthy relationship. The upbeat song sets the stage for an overall optimistic yet emotional album. Twenty Four Seven, which was released in the U.K. on Nov. 2, 1999, is rich with themes of survival and perseverance amidst refreshing, new undertones of vulnerability; a beautiful way to end a recording career for someone who not only survived domestic abuse, but fiercely fought and overcame domestic abuse that threatened to ruin her music career.
Since Turner decided in advance (and told her manager) that Twenty Four Seven was going to be her final album, she was able to personalize it and approach it with a new sense of freedom. It was a good-bye album and a passion project for the public.
On Twenty Four Seven, Turner worked with songwriters she considered close friends, such as Terry Britten, as well as several new producers whom she encouraged to experiment with ‘90s production techniques. Turner is also noticeably more raw, even taking a gentler tone in songs like, “Don’t Leave Me this Way,” which empathizes with listeners suffering from abandonment.
Echoes of her earlier work are scattered throughout the album as well. The goosebump-inducing gospel choir in “Talk to My Heart,” for instance, brings us straight back to Tina’s soul days in this impassioned ballad about the magic of finding ‘the one.’
Turner is currently living life to the fullest in Switzerland with her ‘one,’ husband and partner of 33 years, Erwin Bach. “He’s really 60 and I’m really 15,” she joked in a 1996 interview when asked about the age gap between herself and the German record executive, who is sixteen years her junior. Tina may be turning 80 on Nov. 26, but she is still a kid at heart.
“I have a simple, childlike view of life,” Turner told O in May of 2005, “And I want to keep it."