Just over 31 years ago, in 1984, things were really beginning to take off for Tina. Fresh from the European success of her cover of Al Green’s “Lets Stay Together” in November 1983 a second shot at fame was on the horizon. As copies of the single circulated and created a buzz in the USA the single would eventually hit the top ten chart categories in the Hot Black Singles and Hot Dance Club Songs and number 26 on Billboard Hot 100.
The success of “Lets Stay Together”, and her stage persona made the record company Capitol, to quickly rethink Tina’s contract and request an album at short notice which we all know would be released as “Private Dancer”. Recorded between March and April followed by tour rehearsals in Los Angeles in May, she should not only be the opening act for the North American leg of Lionel Richie’s “Can’ Slow Down Tour” but also duet on three songs, including Rod Stewart’s “Hot Legs” and Richie’s “Three Times a Lady” – the latter perhaps not being the obvious song choice for Tina’s new rock star image. In total, Tina signed up to performing 45 concerts across the U.S. and also Canada during her four month stint.
Tina’s opening act included old favourites, cover versions in typical Tina style plus new tracks from Private Dancer during her 40 minute set. The Tennessean reported later “Tina Turner electrifies the packed crowd at Municipal Auditorium during her concert with Lionel Richie on May 22, 1984. Turner, in a midst of a career revival, performed a 40-minute set before Richie.”
In May 1985 Ebony Magazine, wrote of Tina’s performance “… Before she could catch her breath, Lionel Richie asked her to open his 1984 tour, and Tina was off and running – all by herself. Not only was she no longer with Ike, but the Lionel Richie tour was the first time she did major performances without the support of backup singers and dancers. “It was real hard being on stage by myself at first,“ Tina recalls of the first few shows of the tour: Because Lionel’s crowd is not my crowd. Plus, it was brand new material, and the only thing they wanted to hear was “Nutbush City Limits,“ “Let’s Stay Together“ and “Proud Mary.” However, by the middle of the tour the album began to get widespread radio play and rapidly moved up the charts. It wasn’t long before Lionel Richie’s crowd was, indeed, Tina Turner’s crowd.”
“Private Dancer” would of course go on to have monumental success and make Tina a global household name in her own right. The association between the two performers would continue when they were together again during the 1985 Grammy Awards where they both individually scooped a major haul of awards, the recording of the charity single “We are the World” during the same year, the 1999 Mobo Awards when Tina was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Lionel which in turn would see him later being asked to perform as the opening act on Tina’s 24/7 tour in 2000.
Though there is footage of Lionel during his “Cant Slow Down Tour” as yet, nothing seems to have come to light of Tina’s opening act or the duets other than some still photographs. Perhaps one day, something will appear, but in the meantime here is a selection of photographs from Tina’s opening set at the at Municipal Auditorium during for Lionel Richie on 22nd May 1984.