Monday, December 11, 2023

Love at first sound: One woman’s tribute to the God of Rock ’n’ Roll

I was 11 years old when I first met Tina Turner. It was 1984, I was in boarding school in Ooty and her photograph was on the cover of a cassette tape. At the moment of reckoning she was wearing black leather and red lipstick and singing a song called ‘What’s love got to do with it’.  This, I learned much later, was a song expressly not about love but about it’s much more fun cousin S.E.X. But at 11 I had no clue nor did I care. I wasn’t obsessed with the song because of the lyrics I was obsessed by the voice that sang them.

If you have never heard a Tina Turner song let me prepare you – her voice is like thunder. It is raw, powerful, dangerous. And just like her voice Tina looked like thunder too. She was the most glamourous thing I had ever seen in my young life, instantly displacing Zeenat Aman from the pedestal upon which I had placed her a few years before. And I knew there and then that when I grew up I wanted to be Tina Turner.


Tina Turner was made for women like myself. She was a huge success in a field where looks matter yet she was not a conventionally pretty woman – in fact she wasn’t pretty at all, in fact I wonder if she would be annoyed by that word itself! Tina was not beautiful, she was beauty. There is a difference.  She embodied strength, power and grace – qualities that are timeless and neither feminine or masculine. Tina showed us that conforming to any standard set for us and by someone else would be wasting our time. Tina Turner became my hero.

Then I got older and I forgot my hero. Life happened. I got married, I moved countries, I started and restarted my career, I moved countries yet again, I turned 40. Then this year I turned 50. I don’t know if it’s a mid-life crisis or an existential crisis or just plain old depression but the last twelve months have not been easy. I have struggled personally and professionally, telling myself on more than one occasion to stop writing and performing. That nobody wanted to hear from some middle-aged woman who was out of touch with all things cool.


And then right in the middle of my panic ridden pity party, on May 24th Tina Turner died.

I never thought she would die. I know that sounds so stupid but I really thought I would be reading about her doing amazing things until I died. That maybe one day before I turned 70 I would watch her perform. Ah the fantasies we live to regret!

Once I got my breath back, I went down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos listening to her songs and inadvertently reliving my own life. I spent several days reading or watching as many interviews as I could find on the internet and of the many wonderfully insightful things I read or saw, one in particular stood out. When asked what she thought her legacy was, this humble woman who had won multiple Grammys, been inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall Of Fame, and had a film made about her life, said that her legacy was that she never gave up on who she was.

I realized then that  I owed Tina. That I would have to keep writing and performing. That I would have to get up, dust off, and keep it moving. Because what we all ultimately leave behind are not our accomplishments but a path.

Suddenly I felt calmer knowing that my job here on earth is to simply keep going. To carve my path to the very end. This path may be narrow, thorny, overrun with weeds, and ridden with potholes. It may not be lined with awards and recognition but if it is a path that lets one other soul think ‘maybe I can’ then it was a path worth having run, walked, and yes, on some days crawled.


Tina Turner did not simply become the Goddess of Rock-n-Roll. She had to overcome poverty, abuse and a host of other setbacks. If she had allowed any of it to stop her I would not have the soundtrack to my life. And unless I willfully walk my path I may never find those little surprises along the way. Those hidden waterfalls or the views from the top of the mountain.

I have decided that every day, especially the hard days, I will wake up and tell myself to just work on my path. Who knows what I will encounter – perhaps a storm, but also perhaps a rainbow.  But if I don’t beat that path daily then I was never a true Tina Turner fan, I was just a tourist and I never want to be a tourist, not anywhere in this world and especially not in my own life.

And so, I promise myself and you dear reader, that when things are ugly, painful and hard I will simply summon Tina Turner and remember always that if Tina could then I can.

Radhika Vaz
Radhika Vaz is a comedian and writer. Born in Mumbai, she started out as an advertising executive in Chennai and has done her master's in advertising from Syracuse University, New York

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