What's Love Got To Do With It

Album: Private Dancer (1984)
Charted: 3 1
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Songfacts®:

  • This was Tina Turner's comeback song. She first hit the pop charts with her husband Ike in 1960, and their biggest hit came in 1971 with a cover of "Proud Mary." After enduring years of spousal abuse, Tina split from Ike in 1976 and her career was in limbo until "What's Love Got To Do With It" thrust her back in the spotlight 13 years after "Proud Mary." More hits followed, cementing her status as a music icon. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • In this song, Tina Turner plays the part of a woman who enjoys the carnal encounters with her lover, but feels no emotional attachment. She wants him to know that there's nothing more to it, as for her it's purely physical. Their relationship has nothing to do with love, which she dismisses as "a sweet, old-fashioned notion."

    It's really an anti-love song, and Turner hated it. She balked at recording it, but had the good sense to defer to her manager, Roger Davies, who was engineering her comeback and was sure the song would be a hit. Davis got the song from his friends, the songwriters Terry Britten and Graham Lyle (who was in the duo Gallagher and Lyle), and it was Britten who produced the track.

    Turner could sell a song as well as anyone, so she could deliver a convincing vocal even if she didn't have a personal connection to the track. Outside of "Nutbush City Limits," her hits were written by others and interpreted by Tina, who could always get into character. She was never anyone's "Private Dancer," but she managed to make a song about one a hit as well.
  • This won Grammys in 1985 for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Female Vocal Performance. Turner gave one of the awards to Davies, whom she credited with reviving her career. Davies, an Australian who was new to the business, met Turner in 1979 after she had released a series of failed solo albums.
  • The video was directed by Mark Robinson, who also did the Ashford & Simpson promo for "Solid." In the video, Turner walks confidently around New York City with big hair, high heels and a short skirt. MTV put it in heavy rotation, and for many, it was their first look at Turner, who provided a striking visual.

    At the second MTV Video Music Awards in 1985, it won for Best Female Video.
  • Private Dancer was Turner's first album for Capitol Records. They took a chance on her when it appeared she was no longer marketable, and it paid off big, as the album was a huge hit. Recording the album was no easy task, as several producers, songwriters and musicians were used to assemble the various songs. One of the producers was Rupert Hine, who worked on the tracks "Better Be Good To Me" and "I Might Have Been Queen." Hine told Songfacts that it was Turner's professionalism and ungodly talent that made it work. Said Hine: "She approaches things in such a diligent way and she 'owns the song' - that's the phrase she used to use, which basically means she sings along with it at home. I give her a songwriter's demo and then she'll sing it in her key. And then the point where she sings along with the tape and she feels she's got it, it's now her song."
  • In 1993, the title was used for a movie about her life starring Angela Bassett as Turner. Bassett lip-synched to Turner's songs.
  • Turner set two records when this song went to #1 on the Hot 100 on September 1, 1984. At 44, she became the oldest female solo artist ever to top the chart, a remarkable feat in an industry that prizes youth, especially among female singers.

    She also set the record for longest time between first song to chart and first #1 hit. Her first song to chart was "A Fool In Love" with Ike Turner in 1960, 24 years earlier.

    These records were both broken by Cher, who was 52 when her song "Believe" went to #1, and whose first chart hit was in 1965 with "I Got You Babe" (with Sonny & Cher).
  • Turner's comeback on the charts began when she released a version of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" - her first Columbia single - in 1983. It did surprisingly well in the UK, where it went to #6 in December. It America, it was a slower climb, reaching #26 in March. This piqued interest, and the "What's Love Got To Do With It" single was released in early May.

    On May 15, Turner joined Lionel Richie as opening act on his Can't Slow Down tour, where she started her set with "What's Love Got To Do With It." On May 29, the Private Dancer album was released.

    Turner earned lots of positive press and her comeback story helped her build momentum. In September, the song hit #1 and Turner was once again a headline act. When Richie put together the star-studded "We Are The World" benefit single in 1985, Turner, firmly entrenched on the A-list, as an obvious choice.
  • This was one of many popular songs to appear in the TV series Miami Vice; it was used in the first season episode "Calderone's Return: Part 2 - Calderone's Demise" in 1984. Later that season, Turner's "Better Be Good To Me" was used in the episode "Give a Little, Take a Little" and included on the season 1 soundtrack album, which sold over 4 million copies.

    The song also appeared in episodes of Desperate Housewives ("Silly People" - 2006), Perfect Strangers ("Knock Knock, Who's There?" - 1986) and Knight Rider ("Custom Made Killer" - 1985). It can also be heard in the 2015 movie Pitch Perfect 2.
  • Ike & Tina Turner's fans were mostly male; when Tina went solo, she cultivated a female demographic with songs like this one. She could enthrall men with the best of them, which she did when performing on stage with the likes of Rod Stewart (Hot Legs!) and Mick Jagger, but at her own shows, she sang to the women. Turner said she wanted them to know she wasn't trying to steal their boyfriends.
  • Turner had been chanting and practicing Buddhism for over a decade when she released this song. She credits her relentless pursuit of personal growth for making her receptive to this song, which she hated when she heard it. "If I hadn't been willing to go outside my comfort zone, open my mind a little wider, and do the extra work it to to make it mine, who knows if I would have broken through in my career," she wrote in her 2020 memoir Happiness Becomes You.
  • Tina Turner teamed up with Kygo in 2020 for a brand new version of "What's Love Got To Do With It." The DJ accomplished the remix by taking Turner's archival vocals and remastering them into a brand-new track.

    The song was the second time the Norwegian DJ/producer had reworked a recording by a singing legend. In 2019 he released a remix of Whitney Houston's cover of Steve Winwood's "Higher Love."

    Kygo's updated version reached the top ten in several European countries including Norway, Switzerland and Sweden. It peaked at #31 in the UK and #101 in the US.
  • In the 2021 documentary film Tina it's revealed that co-writer Terry Britten encouraged Turner to slow the pace when singing this song and imagine she was jogging. A smash hit followed.
  • Co-writer Terry Britten also penned Cliff Richard's hit singles "'Devil Woman," and "Carrie." Britten and Lyle originally offered this song to Richard. His people rejected it, but Cliff did get to record the track for his 2001 covers album Wanted.

    Britten and Lyle also offered "What's Love Got to Do With It" to several other artists, including Donna Summer and Bucks Fizz, before Turner recorded it.

Comments: 16

  • John Elder from Badlands, North DakotaLove has got everything to do with it. Love has God, everything to do with it. Tina Turner said she wrote it then she did not. Sounds a little fishy. Who really wrote this song?
  • Elise Martin from HobartI think I always heard it the way Tina Turner meant it. Not anti-love but anti-patriarchy; that is against the male view of love as primarily about sex.
  • George from Louisville, KyNo one does it better than Tina. Do it baby!!!
  • Edwin from Vancouver, BcFor a woman who could sing circles 'round Aretha's histrionic fat arse - this isn't bad but Tina could do so much more. Still waiting for that raw blues collection.
  • Mark from Dublin, IrelandCliff Richard was origally offered this song from the same writter who penned cliffs hits "devil woman" and "carrie" but someone at cliffs office turned the song down because "it wasnt right for cliff" cliff now jokes in concert saying that that person does not work for him anymore,cliff finally did get a chance to record it on his 2003 album "wanted" but i think even cliff fans would have to admit that tinas version is much better and that is coming from a Cliff fan.
  • Nunzio from Darwin, AustraliaForget this ballad crap, go back to 1975 & discover Tina's version of ACID QUEEN from the "TOMMY" soundtrack. She belts it out like she did the 60's R & B stuff & "Nutbush City Limits" wich was a hit in 1975.
  • Musicmama from New York, NyThis song is an anthem for me. It is incredibly honest for a popular song: It's right up there in that category with Carole King's "It's Too Late Baby." Even if you didn't know about Tina's struggles, you can draw strength from her voice and the energy she radiates with it in this song.
  • Jon from Oakridge, OrI HOPE she's stronger emotionally than she's talented musically.
  • Neil from MiddlesbroughWaren G Featuring Adina Howard did a rap cover version in 1996 which got to number 2 in the U.K.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScNever knew it was a synthesizer. Cool!
  • Chris from Charleston, ScA Yamaha DX-7 Synthesizer was used for the harmonica solo.
  • Sarah Floyd from Bloomingdale, Ilwhen i first heard this i didnt know my mom liked this song. and i like this song now. and i wish i had her cd and i hope my mom buys me her cd someday.
  • Dee from Indianapolis, InI was 15 when this was a hit and discovered love for the 1st time, but also had my heart broken as well. This song says it all, and I still consider it a personal tune in my emotional acrhives
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumIt all began for Tina Turner with Phil Spector's masterpiece "River deep, mountain high". Phil Spector created a great "Wall of Sound" around Tina's voice, I think it's one of his best productions and for Tina the start of her career.
    "River deep, mountain high" and Phil Spector, SUPER, SUPER GOOD!!!
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScHey Josie. I know right. tina seems like she's a strong woman, even with all the trouble whe went through.
  • Josie from Colchester, EnglandI think tina is a very strong woman and i admire her for her strength. although she got badly beaten by her husband she got up and carried on. She's great.
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