When you think of Tina Turner—the rock and soul icon who recently died at age 83 from natural causes—what song comes to mind?
For me, it’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” As Turner pranced on the stage singing the song, she’d toss her lion’s mane of hair and shake the beads on her spangly dress. Her shiny face glowed with a free and uninhibited spirit.
I’ve enjoyed Turner’s music, but I didn’t realize the depth of her faith until I did some research to understand the source of her inner strength.
Turner was raised in the Baptist tradition but worshipped at a Pentecostal church near Knoxville, Tennessee. Her religious influences extended well beyond Protestant institutional religion.
In her memoir, Happiness Becomes You, Turner describes the deep, connection her grandmother had to nature that immersed young Tina into the mystical strands of Black Southern religious culture.
Turner aged and struggled through an abusive marriage and fought to overcome the Hollywood temptations of drugs, ego, and power. While remaining rooted in her Christian faith, she found additional strength in the Buddhist tradition.
“I discovered within me a strength that I could survive even the worst situations,” she said in a 2021 interview with Today. “I just needed to find a way to tap that strength and increase it, because then I knew I would find the courage to stand up for myself and lead the life that I wanted and deserved.”
Turner credited her daily meditation and chanting practice as giving her the courage to escape a violent marriage, navigate the music industry as a solo artist, express authentic creativity, recognize true love when it came to her, and live life on her own terms.
“Chanting helped me to go within myself and open deep sources of happiness and wisdom in my own heart and mind,” she said. “Soon, I realized that I already had within me everything I needed to change my circumstances and create a truly happy life. We all have that, and I want everyone to know it.”
Turner bridged the gap between Christian and non-Christian faith traditions by integrating both into her life.
“When we all do our separate prayers, it goes one way, into one power,” Turner shared in an interview. She would sometimes recite the Lord’s Prayer before she began her chanting and meditation practice.
One of her last recordings was a four-album series called Beyond, which included women from Syria, Nepal, India, Israel, and Switzerland singing prayers from various faith traditions.
For Turner, there were many ways to reach the divine.
Beyond the Glitz and Swinging Hips
As I researched her life, I discovered there was much more to Tina Turner than stage glitz and swinging hips.
This music video of the Peace Mantra sung in Sanskrit might best capture the essence of her soul. I invite you to click on the link below, listen, and read the words from the YouTube transcript of the song:
Om Sarveśām Svastir Bhavatu Sarveśām Shāntir Bhavatu Sarveśām Pūrnam Bhavatu Sarveśām Maṇgalam Bhavatu Om shanti… shanti… shanti …
Om May there be Well-Being in All. May there be Peace in All. May there be Fulfillment in All. May there be Auspiciousness in All. Om, Peace, Peace, Peace
What’s God Got to Do With It? Everything!
Like Turner, each of us is building a legacy through our daily lives. The choices we make, the spiritual practices we adopt, and the ways we practice our faith in real and concrete actions shape that legacy.
When we die, perhaps there’s one song we’d like others to sing to christen their memories of us.
If I summed up Tina Turner’s life with a song title, it would be this: “What’s God Got to Do With It? Everything!”
I’m still working on my life’s song. I suspect I have many roads to travel and much deep listening to do before my lifesong emerges.
Until I figure it out, I leave you with this question: What song describes your life?
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