By Katrina Y. Nelson
Special to the AFRO
Although I was born in the late 1960s, by 1970 a profound performance had changed my life. I will never forget watching the Ike and Tina Turner Revue on The Ed Sullivan show, yes, that Ed Sullivan. It was one of my late grandparents’ favorite shows to watch along with Hee-Haw and Hogan’s Heroes and it quickly became mine. Back in those days, Ed Sullivan had some of the world’s greatest artists performing on his show and if you made it onto his show, you were considered “big time.”
Fresh off the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and many, many, many years of struggle and pain; Black folks were exhausted by moving through the darkness of America and in my family, we needed to experience some joy. We needed to feel happy even in the midst of the darkness around us. Like most families I knew growing up in Baltimore, we basked in the annual family reunions, Fish Fry Fridays, and every weekend our house was filled with relatives singing and dancing. Of course libations were a part of the medley that kicked the party up a notch. But it was the simplicity of family gatherings around the hi-fi with the big screen black and white television and seeing someone who looked like you. I can remember those times so vividly! And whenever Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and the Pips and especially Tina Turner walked across the stage on our “tube”… the echo of the words, “Colored People On” flowed throughout the house. We all ran to the TV to see the main attractions who looked just like us. It was a sort of right of passage for all of your kinfolk to watch together, singing, laughing and pretending to perform. Ms. Tina Turner was electrifying. There was no one like that Annie Mae Bullock, singing and dancing to the beat of Proud Mary. One could argue that a four-year-old couldn’t possibly know much, especially about lyrics referring to leaving a good job in the city or working for the man every night and day, but tell that to the many four-year olds on Tik-Tok crazily singing and dancing to Beyonce. That was me! Watching Ms. Tina Turner in all her glory; the long wig, gold mini-shimmy dress and those breathtaking killer moves. Those Ikettes were something fierce as well, but Ms. Tina Turner lit up that sound stage. Albeit, she was performing with Ike, it was Tina who stole the show and who also lit a fuse in me. I instantly fell in love with entertainment. She made me want to dance and sing and go crazy on stage. She was engaging. Looking back to my formidable years, I would occasionally put a towel on my head, my mom and grandmother didn’t have any long wigs at that time; mini-shorts and some boots and pretend I was a performer on stage, in front of millions of people instead of my bedroom mirror. Although a dancing and singing career has yet to happen, except for a couple of stand up comedy youtube videos, but eh, I still got time and then there is always karaoke.
Oh what a time in history! There was no one who could move like Tina or sing like that, maybe except for Cher, I saw that duo perform in real time as well. But, Cher didn’t look like me. Tina gave me energy! Tina was strong! She commanded that stage. You couldn’t take your eyes off of her cheshire smile and amazing moves, because you were afraid you would miss something. Those spins that makes the average person dizzy as hell. And those legs! Ms. Tina Turner sparked a curiosity in me that I didn’t know I had. I was very shy growing up but there was a Tina Turner living inside of me. I will always live out my fantasy as Tina in the local karaoke bars and I can dream like that night of the Ed Sullivan show. A sway, a kick, a couple of spins, and a frowl. I become Tina Turner singing Proud Mary!
Former AFRO intern intern and Coppin alum, Katrina Y. Nelson, is currently executive producing a sexy legal drama called LACE on the AMC/AABLK.TV streaming platform that premieres this fall.
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