Many would argue that “Proud Mary” is Tina Turner’s calling card. It was her biggest hit during her days with The Ike & Tina Turner Revue (#1 R&B, #4 pop), it earned Ike and Tina a Grammy, and it remains a concert highlight. Moreover, the husky sensuality of the slowed-down beginning and the manic, prancing energy of the second part of the song capture something of Tina’s talent and range.
A strong case could be made for “What’s Love Got to Do with It” as the calling card for Tina Turner’s comeback, though. After struggling professionally and personally for several years, the single took the 45-year-old singer back to the top of the music industry. It earned Turner three Grammys, and it remains her only number one pop hit. Also, the biopic that further strengthened her hold on the public’s imagination drew its name from the song.
Finally, the song may be her calling card because it was so dependent on her performance of it. There is nothing all that imaginative in the instrumentation; the song’s melodic hook is not particularly strong. Yet Turner managed to infuse the simple song with her own vocal power, turning into something other artists could not.