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After 5-year break, Tina is still simply the best

Now 65, singing legend Tina Turner talks about her hiatus from music, her acting career and her comeback CD.
/ Source: TODAY

With a career that's virtually unmatched, Tina Turner has always proven that she's simply the best. The legendary powerhouse with those unforgettable legs has been making music for more than 50 years. Along the way, she's collected a shelf full of Grammys, sold out world tours, and added actress and author to her resume.  All that was left to do was to take a little time for herself ... now after a five-year break, Tina is back and her fans can all breathe a sigh of relief. “Today” host Matt Lauer talked to Turner in this exclusive interview.Matt Lauer: I feel privileged because the last time we talked, you were coming off a several year hiatus. And now I get to talk to you again after you're well rested and coming off this break.  What have you been doing for the last five years?

Tina Turner:  Exactly what I wanted.  My career always took me away from home, I was always away from home and I just wanted to be at home.

Lauer:  So was it planned, or was it that you just got back home and said, this feels good — I’m going to stay here for awhile?

Turner:  No. I had talked to [my manager] Roger about it for some time. I told him … I wanted five years.  I want to see what it's like to be away for five years.  Well, these days, if you're away five years, you might not be able to get back.

Lauer: Any worries about that?

Turner:  No. I didn't worry about it because I kind of felt I left a good message and memory with the people in terms of my work, and I always felt with a good record, I could always come back.

Lauer: But you are a born performer. When I see you onstage, you explode up there. So when you're in that quiet time at home, are the echoes of those cheers always in your head?

Turner: No, it's actually quite separate. When I’m home, it's different.  It’s not work.  It’s just whatever I want to do at home — what normal people do. 

Lauer: So did something click? You said to Roger, who's your manager, you wanted five years, you got the five years, and at the end, were you itching to go back to the stage?

Turner:  No, actually, I could have had a few more. But the record company was asking for a greatest hits [album]. Greatest hits is easy because one has nothing to do — except that we both, Roger and I, felt that new songs should be there because I’ve been away for awhile. We just need to show up with something, and that's why the decision was to do some new songs.

Lauer:  Well, let's talk about that, because when you put out a greatest hits CD, double CD, and you add some new songs, that means you're putting these new songs next to classics.  It's hard for some of these songs to live up when they're living in that sort of a neighborhood.

Turner: You're asking the right questions, this is so good.

Lauer: So how did you choose those songs?

Turner: Well, the choice that I made was from my best music, for the songs that I knew that the public liked. Then, when I recorded my new songs I found that my old material had not faded, it was still current, the music was good [and] the songs were great.  I sat in my house and listened, got the chills, and I thought, how great is that?  It hasn't dated, it hasn't gone anywhere, and it’s great. 

Lauer:  You're confident when people listen to “Proud Mary,” then listen to “What's Love Got to Do With It?” and then “Open Arms” that they won't feel they've lost anything in quality?

Turner:  I tell you, when you hear it, you'll see nothing is lost.  That’s what I’m very proud of, because the quality of the work that I did shows up now. I’m so happy about that.   

Lauer: Who is your audience today, after five decades in the music business? 

Turner:  You wouldn't believe that I still have the bikers with the caps to the side at my door, ringing the doorbell. I still look out at the audience from time to time, if I’m in a restaurant, if I’m walking the street, and when I’m in public. I went to catch a few shows in Europe and the place stood up for me.  It was wonderful.  It felt really, really good.  They’re still there, they're young.  I would have to say, some of them are really quite young.  Maybe that's the parents saying ah, Tina...

Lauer:  Go check out what I’ve listened to for so many years...

Turner:  Right.  They’re still young.  They’re still there and it's just still something that attracts the young and the people of my age.

Lauer:  So when the parents tell the kids, “Wait until you see this chick up onstage because she moves like no one else moves and she never stops.” So at sixty … can I say it?

Turner: Sixty-five.

Lauer: Sixty-five. Can you do that?

Turner:  I can still do it. I don’t know if I can do it every night for a year. I’m in shape.  I think there's body memory of all of that stuff and if I don't overdo it, I think it is possible. Everybody’s asking that question, trying to squeeze me back out there somehow but, yeah, I could still do it — maybe not to the extent of such a long tour; nice and easy ... or something like that.

Lauer: Then you can handle that. If I come to see you onstage, am I going to see the legs?

Turner:  Yes [but] not like the normal. There’s another way of doing it.

Lauer: Some of those skirts were short, by the way.

Turner: Yeah, but probably not that short [now], yeah. 

Lauer: Let me ask you about acting, because it's been 20 years now since you did “Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome” with Mel Gibson, and when I saw that movie, Tina, I thought you were going to do a lot of movies and you haven't done [anymore]. Why?

Turner: Well, I think it was a number of things: the right scripts ... a lot of scripts came in that I didn't want to do. I love “Mad Max” but I didn't like the hooker parts. I think they were trying to slot me in, starting me in on the B grade [movies] and I just wasn't comfortable. I thought either wait until something comes along that I’ll be really happy to do or I just won't get into it. I don't want to act just to be on the screen doing anything and looking any kind of way. I have a bit of pride about that. 

Lauer: So when the CD has come out and people get to hear the music again, you think you may then go back and dive back into Switzerland for awhile and disappear again?

Turner: No. You know I fulfilled my promise. I said I will continue to record and I will do my promotions and now people are asking, Oh one more tour.  I’ve been thinking about some kind of tour, not from desire but for the people. I think it's something really important...

Lauer: Yeah but if you don't have the desire, can you really go out there and do it the right way?

Turner: If I plan it. If I organize it how I will like it. But I don't want to do how I’ve done in the past. I would like a bit of a change.

Lauer: Tina Turner, what a pleasure to have you back. The double CD is called “All the Best.”