Simply the Best – Memories of Tina

A miracle happened at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC in November of 2008. My teenaged daughter, throwing her hands in the air, began a syncopated clapping in time with the surrounding much older crowd. I could see the excitement in her eyes, the swaying of her new womanly hips, singing along to music written long before her birth. The miracle of seeing a teenage girl turn into a Tina Turner fan before my very eyes was a sight to behold. 

“Oh, mom,” she said that night, “Thanks for taking me. Tina’s so freaking awesome.” 

Tina symbolized so much to my generation, but that night of her last performance in the DC area, she was a true miracle—a young woman’s mentor to the strength of female awesomeness.

Upon hearing of her death, I wondered how to describe Tina’s impact on my life? She worked, sang, swiveled, and danced in spike heels across the global stage. My daughter had hesitated about going to the concert. She knew some of Tina’s songs from my kitchen singing and dancing to them over the years, but she knew almost nothing of the singer’s life. The idea of a concert dedicated to Tina by Tina, someone even older than her ancient mom, seemed a stretch for a teenage girl. But that night, my daughter, celebrating with the diverse crowd, stood up, howled, and danced in the aisle to Proud Mary as “rolling on a river” ascended to fever pitch. 

This memory returned to me when I heard that Ms. Turner had left our earthly bonds. I envisioned her dancing on clouds above us, belting out What’s Love Got to Do With it? Everything, Tina, I wanted to tell her. Love has everything to do with it all, with you, with the crowd, with your legacy, with that moment holding my daughter as she wept a bit listening to Private Dancer, envisioning what some girls survive. 

Survival was what Tina was all about. I first saw the movie about her life played by the intense Angela Bassett while I, too, was battling domestic violence. Like Tina, I stuck it out. I had kids. The finances to ensure their safety and schooling was at stake. I fooled myself for years into believing since I was a tough girl from the wrong side of the tracks, as they say, that I could fend for myself. Sure, he belittled me and threw me across rooms or held me pinned to the floor leaving black and blue marks along arms, thighs, and back, but I fought back. Like Tina as she said about Ike’s violence, “There was nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide…My advice now is ‘make up your mind and never go back.’

People, including my kids, have asked me, “Why didn’t you leave?” My answer seems convoluted, fearful, lowly, even to me. I looked to Tina for an answer to that question. You leave when you’re ready to leave, when nothing remains, and you realize the next blow may kill you. When your epiphany is that this person purporting to love you will have no qualms about seeing you dead. On that fateful day in July of 1976, when Tina left her own concert venue to seek shelter, she became a heroine to many. By doing so, she led the way for women to find the courage to follow. Tina knew fear. She knew her actions at that fateful concert so long ago were at the point of no return, a place that hits your very soul. 

Unlike Tina who left Ike to strike out on her own, keeping only her name, it took me decades to summon the courage to exit. I know now that Ms. Turner’s songs kept me alive, kept me strong, and in some small manner may have prepared me to leave.

Domestic Violence leaves a devastating wake of not just trauma but shame. How could I and so many others have allowed it to happen, continued to stay? Why didn’t I leave? It’s estimated by the Domestic Violence Hotline that more than 1 in 3 women every year undergo physical abuse by an intimate partner including assault and rape in the US. 

Today, as I listen to those defiant, wild, joyful, and sad songs Tina penned, I realize how incredibly heroic her actions were and what she meant to an entire generation. Even now that I am safely ensconced in a fully loving relationship, Tina’s melodies and lyrics reach into an inner soul and I realize she was “Simply the Best. Better than all the rest.” 

And that is simply ‘awesome.’ 

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