The remarkable lady from Nutbush
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The remarkable lady from Nutbush

Tributes have poured in for Tina Turner who sadly passed away at the age of 83 this week in Switzerland. I would like to add a small, if inadequate thank you to this wonderful performer who brought such joy to millions. In addition to having a great talent she was also a lovely lady and her Buddhist faith played a strong role in her life. Tina had soul.

Her death prompted a rare occasion when most UK newspapers came up with an identical headline, "Simply the Best" while others bade farewell to the "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll".

Tina was hugely admired amongst her peers particularly Mick Jagger and they performed together several times. "I loved it when we toured with the Rolling Stones," Tina told the Guardian newspaper recently. In his tribute to her this week Jagger was clearly deeply moved, commenting "I'm so sad at the passing of my wonderful friend Tina… she was inspiring, warm, funny and generous".

The first time I became aware of Tina was as a teenager watching television clips of her shows with husband Ike Turner while touring England in the early 1960s. Backed by the stunning Ikettes I had never seen such a vibrant stage show. Their energy levels were extraordinary and despite all the frantic shimmying on stage Tina still managed to produce powerful vocals.

The BBC described the shows as "In your face, sweat-drenched, hip-shaking performances". No wonder she was dubbed "The hardest-working legs in show business".

If you are not convinced, watch Tina strutting around to Nutbush City Limits, a belting song she wrote about her home town.

'A perfect record'

A few years later in 1966 I was at college in Kingston on Thames at a time the pirate radio stations operating on boats in the North Sea had become popular, playing the latest music. One evening I remember a pirate DJ being so excited by a record that he urged listeners to stop what they were doing and savour the next track because he thought it was something really special.

The song was River Deep -- Mountain High performed by Tina and produced by Phil Spector with his wall of sound. I had never heard anything quite like it and understood why the DJ was so excited. Strangely enough, although it became a huge hit in England and much of Europe it was unsuccessful in the US, something I could never understand.

The Beatles' George Harrison called it "a perfect record from start to finish" and I wouldn't argue with that.

Oriental comeback

I was fortunate enough to see Tina perform twice in Bangkok concerts and they were very contrasting occasions.

I think it was October 1977 and I was delighted to see that Tina was appearing at the Oriental hotel's ballroom. It was after she had broken up with Ike in 1976 and many had even thought she had retired. She had certainly been out of the limelight having experienced a very rough time.

I was disappointed that the ballroom was nowhere near full capacity for such an outstanding talent. It was primarily because not many Thai people knew of her at the time and much of the audience were middle-aged foreigners. Despite it not being a packed crowd she still put on a terrific soulful performance. I recall her son Ronnie who was playing bass guitar was also celebrating his 17th birthday.

Tina put the audience at ease by saying she preferred playing to smaller more intimate audiences. She was later to perform in front of a record 180,000 fans at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Just imagine that.

Hot stuff at Hua Mark

The second time I saw her perform live it was in very different circumstances with Tina now back as a superstar, returning in all her glory. It must have been in the late 1980s after she had made an extraordinary comeback with the success of songs like Private Dancer, The Best and What's Love Got To Do With It.

This time she attracted a crowd of about 10,000 at Hua Mark stadium and the audience was mainly young Thai people who were very enthusiastic. She didn't let them down with a typical pulsating performance which included some high-powered dancing. Standing near the front I was worn out just watching her perform.

A nice touch

I never met Tina, but had two friends who were lucky enough to make her acquaintance and they were both impressed by how pleasant she was, making them feel comfortable.

When Tina toured the United Kingdom in the 60s an English friend was in charge of a large nightclub in the Midlands where she performed. He told me Tina was the most gracious celebrity he had ever met and couldn't have been more friendly.

On one of her concert trips to Thailand in the 1980s Tina was interviewed for the Bangkok Post by Australian colleague Kevin Meade. Although he was very knowledgeable about music Kev was a trifle nervous, but Tina made him feel immediately at ease. At the end of the interview she gave him a friendly pat on his shirt telling him how much she enjoyed talking with him.

Kev was rightly very chuffed and admitted that for weeks he didn't wash that shirt. As he proudly told us all "it was the shirt that Tina Turner touched".

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Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

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