What’s Love Got to Do With It Original
1984’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” is a song about a woman who enjoys sexy times without emotional attachment. Written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, the song is synonymous with Tina Turner. So much so that the 1993 movie about her life was given the same title. “What’s Love Got to Do With It” revived Turner’s music career and established her as an 80s icon. However, before Turner’s version, British pop group Bucks Fizz recorded the “What’s Love Got to Do With It” original.
So Many What’s Love Got to Do With It Original Possibilities
“What’s Love Got to Do With It” did the rounds before it found its way to Turner. First, it was offered to Cliff Richard, who rejected it. Next, Phyllis Hyman wanted to record the song, but her label, Arista, said no. Then “What’s Love Got to Do With It” was offered to Donna Summer. Summer sat with the song for a couple years, but never recorded it. Ultimately, Bucks Fizz were offered the song.
What’s Love Got to Do With Bucks Fizz?
Bucks Fizz were an all-blonde English version of ABBA. They gained fame when they won the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest performing “Making Your Mind Up”.
Bucks Fizz member Jay Aston said she wanted to sing lead vocals on “What’s Love Got to Do With It”. However, the producer preferred a male lead. So Buck Fizz recorded “What’s Love Got to Do With It” in February 1984 with male member Bobby G singing lead.
The recording was slated for inclusion in the band’s fourth album I Hear Talk. But they shelved it when Turner’s version came out in mid-1984. The Bucks Fizz “What’s Love Got to Do With It” original version went unreleased until a 2000 re-issue of their 1982 album Are You Ready. Later, the Original Bucks Fizz included the song in their 2009 reunion tour.
Aston recalled that Bucks Fizz’s demo of “What’s Love Got to Do With It” was similar to Turner’s version. However, the band’s final version sounded very different. While Turner’s version opens with a bit of synth, it’s predominantly a rock song, albeit poppy with hints of R&B. Bucks Fizz’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” is synth all the way, and even a bit new wave. Despite the male vocals, Bobby G’s pitch is about the same as Turner’s. The song is full of big 80s sounds, particularly in the chorus. However, it lacks the punch of Turner’s version.
Also, having a male vocalist changes the dynamics of the whole song. When a man sings about love being a “second-hand emotion”, it fits in with negative gender stereotypes. When a female sings, it’s more empowering. Check out other examples where the original song is sung by a man, and the more famous cover is sung by a woman.
Record-Breaking Tina Turner
Turner released “What’s Love Got to Do With It” in mid-1984 as part of her fifth solo studio album, Private Dancer. It was her most successful single ever, her first and only US number one.
Turner set two records when “What’s Love Got to Do With It” went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. At 44, she became the oldest female solo artist to top the chart. She also set the record for the longest gap between her first song to chart (1960’s “A Fool In Love”) and her first number one. It wasn’t until 1999, that 52-year-old Cher broke both of these records with “Believe”.
Reviving Turner’s Music Career
“What’s Love Got to Do With It” is the story of an amazing rock and roll comeback. In the 60s and early 70s, Turner, with her then-husband Ike, produced R&B hits like “Proud Mary”. Then in 1976, after enduring years of domestic violence, Turner divorced Ike. Unfortunately her next two solo albums failed and her label dumped her.
In 1979, Turner met the Australian, Roger Davies, who was new to the music business. He became Turner’s manager.
In 1984, Turner enjoyed success once more, with the release of a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”. Davies set about working on her comeback. His friends, Britten and Lyle, suggested their song “What’s Love Got to Do With It”.
When she first heard it, Turner didn’t like the song, but Davies knew the song would be a hit. Turner listened to Davies and recorded the song. One of her talents is delivering convincing vocals even when she doesn’t feel connected to a song.
And Turner’s vocals in “What’s Love Got to Do With It” sure are convincing. Particularly when you listen to the song in context with her life story. Check out the movie What’s Love Got to Do With It starring Angela Bassett. I’m sure you’ll feel emotional when you listen to the song again.
The music video is great too. Turner’s hair/wig is resplendent as she walks through the streets of New York City. She passes stereotypical 80s New York scenes like little kids playing with water spraying from a burst fire hydrant, older kids Double Dutch skipping, street dancing and a Twin Towered skyline.
There’s a second music video filmed in black and white in studios in Los Angeles. However, Turner didn’t like this version so it’s rarely shown. The New York video won “Best Female Video” at the 1985 MTV Video Music Awards.
A Great Rock & Roll Comeback
“What’s Love Got to Do with It” was Turner’s first top-10 hit since the early 70s. It spent three weeks as number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and ranked number two on the 1984 Year-End Hot 100. (Prince’s “When Doves Cry” came in at number one.) “What’s Love Got to Do with It” won three 1985 Grammy Awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Turner gave one of the awards to Davies, who she credited with reviving her career. Her live performance of “What’s Love Got to Do with It” at the 1985 Grammys was released on the 1994 album Grammy’s Greatest Moments Volume I.
Turner’s album Private Dancer went to number three on the pop charts and number one on the R&B charts. It was nominated for six Grammys and won four. Five singles from the album charted.
After Private Dancer, Turner’s success continued. Labels courted her. She sold out arena concerts. And in 1985 she starred in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. For the film she sang “We Don’t Need Another Hero”, which won a Golden Globe Award for best original song.
“What’s Love Got to Do With It” is ranked number 309 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. It’s also ranked number 38 on the “Songs of the Century” list. In 2012, “What’s Love Got to Do with It” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, Turner’s third Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
Warren G Version
In 1996, American artists Warren G and Adina Howard recorded a version of “What’s Love Got to Do With It” for the Supercop soundtrack. Warren G raps verses about the superficiality of the music business and about how money-hungry people can be. Howard sings Turner’s chorus, but in a more R&B style. This version of “What’s Love Got to Do with It” went to number 32 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number five on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart. Outside the US, it reached the top ten in over ten countries.
What Tina Did Next
In the years since “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, Turner released five charting albums and 13 charting singles. She won another six Grammys, three American Music Awards, five MTV awards and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “What’s Love Got to Do with It” really did make Turner one of the 1980s music success stories.