Tina Turner’s Game-Changing 'Private Dancer' Album Turns 40

The legendary Tina Turner was not a new artist when her breakthrough album, Private Dancer, dropped on May 29, 1984. She was, in fact 44 years old, and Turner — who died almost exactly 39 years later on May 24, 2023 — had already been making music for a decade.

But Private Dancer — with its phenomenal success, selling more than 8 million copies — marked Tina’s big break into the rank of household names. Earworm alert: Who could forget “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”, which was Turner’s first No. 1 hit and played nonstop on the radio in 1984?

“Turner throws herself into the material here, her voice rasping but strong, physical and impossibly sensual,” reviewer Debby Miller wrote for Rolling Stone in 1984. “There isn’t a single dud among the songs, and they’re given modern rock settings that are neither detached nor very fussy.”

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Tina Turner: Private Dancer

Turner’s first solo album — Tina Turns the Country On — came out in 1974, when she still was a member of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Four more studio discs arrived in the ‘70s — Acid Queen, Rough, Love Explosion and Good Hearted Woman — before Turner really turned the country on with Private Dancer, which served as a comeback five years after her last studio album.

It contained several hit singles: the soft, synth-driven “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” accompanied by its lyrics about the “secondhand emotion;" the sensual title track “Private Dancer” and the fun, feisty and fast “Better Be Good to Me,” which earned Turner her third solo Grammy Award in 1985.

Devoted fans of Turner might actually cite lesser-known songs from Private Dancer as their favorites. Some call the sassy “I Might Have Been Queen” her most underrated song, as it usually doesn’t make any Top 10 lists or compilations. The spirited and staccato “Show Some Respect” and the album's first single, 1983's "Let's Stay Together," weren't huge hits, though the latter has served as a wedding song for some fans.

Over the years, Private Dancer has been re-released in different packages. In 1985, the album came out as a vinyl picture disc when Turner was touring. In 1997, an EMI Centenary Edition was released with it being issued again in 2015 as a 30th Anniversary Edition, a two-disc set which features the original album on the first disc, with B-sides, extended mixes and additional tracks on the second. Two foreign re-releases also came out: one in England, and one in Colombia.

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Life outside of music

Tina Turner and Ike Turner in 1975
Tina Turner and Ike Turner in 1975
Michael Putland / Contributor/Getty

Outside of her music, Turner — a 2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee whom many call the Queen of Rock & Roll — served as inspiration as a strong, resilient woman who had overcome many hardships, including a severely abusive marriage to Ike Turner.

Over the years, Turner offered up numerous memorable quotes, including this gem about aging: “Fifty is the new 30. Seventy is the new 50. There are no rules that say you have to dress a certain way. We are living in exciting times for women,” Turner told the Daily Express in 2009.

In a 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey, she said: “My legacy is that I stayed on course … from the beginning to the end, because I believed in something inside of me. So my legacy is a person that strived for wanting it better and got it.”

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The death of Tina Turner

Tine Turner in 1977
Tine Turner in 1977
Harry Langdon / Contributor/Getty

When Tina Turner died, the world mourned. Angela Bassett, who played her in the 1993 biopic film What’s Love Got to Do with It?, said this in a statement: “How do we say farewell to a woman who owned her pain and trauma and used it as a means to help change the world?

“Through her courage in telling her story, her commitment to stay the course in her life, no matter the sacrifice, and her determination to carve out a space in rock and roll for herself and for others who look like her, Tina Turner showed others who lived in fear what a beautiful future filled with love, compassion and freedom should look like.”

And four decades after her big breakthrough, we continue to enjoy her music, and benefit from sharing this world with the force of nature that was Tina Turner.

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