February 26, 1985. I was in junior high in Nederland, Texas, a small town a few miles outside Beaumont, when Tina Turner performed on the Grammys. I had already heard about her from my favorite teacher, Mrs. Stansbury, the theater arts teacher at C. O. Wilson Junior High School. But seeing this performance sealed the deal: I was in love.
It wasn’t until about 5 years later, however, that I was able to fully indulge my love for all things Tina Turner. As soon as I got my first CD player sometime in college, I bought her four solo albums — Private Dancer, Break Every Rule, Tina Live in Europe, and Foreign Affair — and started listening to them obsessively.
What I’ve always liked about Tina’s music is her combination of strength and vulnerability. This combination is captured in Herb Ritts’ iconic image of Tina. Her story as a survivor shines through in his image. She is strong, determined, and joyful, despite whatever else is happening in her life. Her music also captures this quality.
Because my love for Tina Turner came to full fruition around 1990, it was inevitably bound up for me in my simultaneous coming out as a gay man. Listening to Tina’s music spoke to me in that period of my life, articulating what I felt, what I wanted, and even what I was most afraid of. Ever since that time, Tina’s music as been a constant love, something I return to over and over. Whether I’m depressed, happy, in love, confused or nostalgic, listening to Tina always jives with what I’m feeling. So many other things have changed, are changing, and will change in my life; but my love for Tina remains the same.