Watch Tina Turner Flip the Rock Script and Usher in the Seventies With ‘Proud Mary’ on ‘Ed Sullivan’
It was all happening for Tina and Ike Turner in 1970. They’d spent the Sixties building a steady head of steam in the U.S., and especially abroad, with hits like “So Fine,” and their rendition of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” Their biggest smash wouldn’t come until 1971 — though Tina and Ike were already teasing it at the start of the new decade on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The Ike and Tina Turner Revue brought their barnstorming rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” to The Ed Sullivan Show on Jan. 11, 1970. More than 50 years later — and on the occasion of Tina’s death on Wednesday, May 24 — the performance remains as electrifying as ever, encapsulating everything that made Tina Turner one of rock & roll and popular music’s most formidable singers, dancers, and performers.
Ike and Tina’s cover of “Proud Mary” appeared on their 1970 album Workin’ Together, though it wasn’t released as a single until 1971 (it eventually peaked at Number Four on the Billboard Hot 100). They started playing the song in 1969 — the same year Creedence released the original — making it a highlight of their set list as they opened for the Rolling Stones in the fall of that year. The song remained one of Tina’s signature tunes throughout her career; even after more than 1,000 performances of the song, she was still delivering it with unparalleled gusto at her final concert, in 2009.
John Fogerty, who wrote “Proud Mary,” celebrated Turner and her rendition of the track following her death: “So deeply sad to hear about Tina Turner’s passing… I loved her version of Proud Mary! It was different and fantastic. I was also so happy because she chose my song and it was her breakthrough record. I was so honored. I am also grateful I was on stage with her playing Proud Mary. Keep rollin’ on the river. Rest in peace, Tina.”
As it happened, Ike and Tina’s decision to add “Proud Mary” to their repertoire was part of a somewhat concerted effort to start playing more hits by white rock artists (they also played the Beatles’ “Come Together” on that tour with the Stones, and included both “Get Back” and “Let It Be” on Workin’ Together). It was an intriguing decision, a way of reclaiming and reasserting some Black identity into the music these white artists wouldn’t have been able to create without the myriad Black ones who’d inspired them.
Tina laid it all out in a 1971 story in Rolling Stone, saying it all started when she was in a record shop in Seattle and saw someone buying “Come Together.” She loved the song and figured she and Ike just had to perform it: “That’s the thing I think of — the stage — because it’s action, you know?,” Tina said.
Along with “Come Together,” they also started playing the Stones’ “Honkey Tonk Woman,” at which point Tina said people started coming to them and telling them they had to record their versions of these songs, too.
“So when we cut the album, we were lacking a few tunes, so we said, ‘Well, let’s just put in a few things that we’re doing onstage,” Tina said. “And that’s how ‘Proud Mary’ came about. I had loved it when it first came out. We auditioned a girl, and she had sung ‘Proud Mary.’ This is like eight months later, and Ike said, ‘You know, I forgot all about that tune.’ And I said, ‘Let’s do it, but let’s change it.’ So in the car, Ike plays the guitar, we just sort of jam. And we just sort of broke into the Black version of it.”