Tina Turner Didn’t Make Money From ‘Proud Mary’ for Decades

Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” is one of her most famous songs. The song, originally a cover, was released by the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in 1971, and it launched the band to new heights. Before “Proud Mary,” the group was well known in R&B, but hadn’t had their big break into the mainstream. “Proud Mary” changed that. But Turner didn’t make any money off the song after 1978.

Tina Turner with long brown hair performing in a silver, glittering bodysuit on ‘Don Kirshner's Rock Concert’ in 1976
Tina Turner | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Who originally did ‘Proud Mary’?

The original “Proud Mary” is a song by the Creedence Clearwater Revival. The 1969 song was a solid country track from the band, but Turner’s cover made it a hit. According to The Atlantic, Turner was determined to cover the song after hearing it on the radio.

She pitched the idea to her husband, Ike, whom she had married in 1962. But he wasn’t interested. Turner kept pushing and they eventually created their own version. And it made the Ike & Tina Turner Revue into a household name. “Proud Mary” hit No. 4 on the Billboard pop chart and sold over 1 million copies. It won the group its first and only Grammy as well.

Just like Dolly Parton with Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” cover, CCR’s John Fogerty loved that Turner made “Proud Mary” a sensation.

“Thank you, beautiful Tina, for shooting my song into the stratosphere,” he’s quoted saying in Turner’s book That’s My Life.

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Ike Turner took everything but Tina Turner’s stage name in their divorce

The Ike & Tina Turner Revue performed “Proud Mary” on countless variety shows and in nearly every live performance. The CCR version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, and Ike and Turner’s version was inducted in 2003. Fifty years after its original release, it’s impossible to talk about Turner’s legacy without mentioning it.

A tragic part of Turner’s life story is the abuse she experienced during her marriage to Ike. The musician abused Turner throughout their 16-year marriage, the first time being when she was pregnant with their son, Ronnie, according to the Tina documentary on HBO.

After living through what she described as “torture” for 16 years, Turner escaped the grasp of her abusive husband in Dallas, Texas, in 1976. Their divorce was finalized by 1978. She kept the truth about Ike’s mistreatment secret until a tell-all interview with People magazine in 1981. In that interview, Turner revealed Ike took nearly everything in their divorce.

“There’s no connection now with Ike & Tina Turner that I own,” she said.

“He wanted to own me,” Turner added. “But I said, ‘You will not own me. If you want all of what we both worked for, then take it for my peace of mind.'”

Losing ownership of the music created by the Ike & Tina Turner Revue meant she didn’t earn any royalties for their hit songs. And we all know how frequently “Proud Mary” is replayed. One thing Turner did get from the settlement was the rights to her stage name, which turned out to be a boon.

Black-and-white portrait of Ike and Tina Turner circa 1969
Ike and Tina Turner pose for a portrait in circa 1969 | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Tina Turner remade ‘Proud Mary’ for ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’

The divorce left Turner broke and in debt, so she started playing any gig she could get. The performer played a lot of Vegas shows and toured as a solo act. The shows mostly consisted of covers, but she could still perform “Proud Mary,” even though she didn’t make money off of it. You can check out an electric performance of the song in one of Turner’s shows in 1982 here.

It was in the early 1980s that Turner staged her comeback. She had a dream of being a rockstar selling out stadiums, and she ended up doing just that. Turner became a superstar in her own right with her Private Dancer album. Her single “What’s Love Got to Do With It” became her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts, won her a Grammy, and became the title of the 1993 biopic about her life with Ike.

It was for the Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne film that Turner was able to return to “Proud Mary.” She re-recorded the song for the film’s soundtrack in 1993, with Fishburne singing Ike’s lines. The remake was added to Turner’s All the Best greatest hits album, and there are also live recorded versions of the song. And with that “Proud Mary” did, indeed, keep on burning.

In recent years, artists like JoJo and Taylor Swift have re-recorded their old music that’s owned by other people/record labels. It’s a great way to work around oppressive contract deals, like Turner’s divorce settlement.