What I learned about writing from Tina Turner: Rough writing is good

What I learned about writing from Tina Turner: Rough writing is good

Tina Turner performs at The Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) It is a Saturday morning and I have just finished playing a song on my 100-year-old upright piano. For the record, the piano is in better shape than I am. The song is “Proud Mary,” written and sung by John Fogerty in 1969 (the year I met my wife Karen) and recorded by Credence Clearwater Revival. It reached No. 2 on the charts. It is a great song, but I would argue it was made greater soon after in 1971 by Tina Turner. It is her version I have in my head as I pound the keyboard. Because I write almost every day, and because I also play music daily, it should not surprise you that I can't help but connect the two. As a coach, one of my favorite sayings to reluctant writers is this: “If I can sing, you can write.” When a favorite performer dies, I often write a tribute, drawing writing lessons from their musicality. Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin , Ray Charles, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis — all have inspired me. I would ask those residents of rock and roll heaven to please step aside to make room in the choir for the Queen of Rock ‘n' Roll ( sorry, Richard ) Tina Turner. There is much to write Tina: her dirt-poor childhood in a Tennessee town called Nutbush; her discovery by Ike Turner and his subsequent abuse of her; her escape from him to reclaim her independence and inspire others; her forging a musical legacy that has few equals. In this space, I will focus my remarks on Tina's rendition of “Proud Mary.” It is not unusual for one artist to take ownership of another's hit, in the same way that writers learn to take an assignment and make it their own. Otis did it with Bing Crosby's “Try a Little Tenderness.” Aretha did it to Otis, taking his manly version of “Respect” and turning it into a feminist anthem. What magic, then, […]

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