How Tina Turner went from working as a cleaner in 1976 to the world's biggest popstar in 1984

24 May 2023, 20:13 | Updated: 14 August 2023, 16:20

Tina Turner struggled with her career in the late 1970s
Tina Turner struggled with her career in the late 1970s. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Tina Turner was one of the most celebrated and successful popstars of all time, but it wasn't always looking that way.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Tina Turner achieved one of the biggest pop comebacks ever back in 1984, when her Private Dancer album made her one of the world's biggest stars. At that stage, perhaps only Michael Jackson and Madonna could beat her in the popularity stakes.

However, Tina endured a number of torrid years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as her career all but stalled following the end of her abusive marriage to Ike Turner.

It was Ike Turner who discovered the young Anna-Mae Bullock and turned her into a soul powerhouse in the 1960s with hits like 'River Deep Mountain High' and 'Nutbush City Limits'.

But their troubled marriage came to an end after their tour together in 1975.

Ike & Tina In Los Angeles in 1976
Ike & Tina In Los Angeles in 1976. Picture: Getty

Starting from scratch: 1976

At this point, Tina only had 36 cents to her name, and managed to slip away when her husband was asleep. She escaped their hotel room in Dallas and went to a friend's house. A lawyer friend paid for an airline ticket to Los Angeles.

Tina (2021)- Official Teaser | HBO

She had a cleaning job in order to pay rent, and after her divorce from Ike in 1978, she began finally attempting a new solo music career.

Tina began with cabaret shows in Las Vegas, but her albums Rough in 1978 and Love Explosion in 1979 were both flops.

A career boost: 1981

It was Rod Stewart who was particularly impressed with Tina Turner's new rock and blues style by the early 1980s. He hired her to open his US tour in 1981, and then she supported The Rolling Stones.

In 1982, she was featured on the British Electric Foundation's cover of 'Ball of Confusion' by The Temptations, and a year later she signed a deal with Capitol Records.

Now aged 44, she released a cover of Al Green's 'Let's Stay Together', and it became a surprise hit in the UK, reaching number 6. It soon followed suit in the US in 1984.

Tina Turner - Lets Stay Together (Official Music Video)

A massive star: 1984

After the success of 'Let's Stay Together', Capitol wanted a full album, and this became 1984's Private Dancer.

The album was recorded in the UK, and it featured contributions from British producers Rupert Hine and Terry Britten, a soul cover of 'Help!' by The Beatles, and a rock cover of David Bowie's '1984'.

Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler also wrote the album's title track - with Jeff Beck on guitar - which was a decent-sized hit.

The bigger success was the reggae-tinged 'What's Love Got To Do With It', which became her biggest hit to date, topping the US chart for three weeks and making Tina a massive worldwide star.

Tina Turner - What's Love Got to Do with It [HD REMASTERED]

Tina Turner and David Bowie in 1985
Tina Turner and David Bowie in 1985. Picture: Getty

Private Dancer had the perfect mix of pop, rock and soul, and was released at the height of MTV and music videos.

The album spent a whopping 147 weeks on the UK album charts, and 81 weeks in the States. ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ earned three Grammy awards, including one for 'Record Of The Year'.

Over 35 years later, and Private Dancer remains one of the best pop albums of all time, and helped cement Tina Turner as one of the world's greatest singers.