Up close and personal with the legendary Tina Turner

It is unusual when someone interviews you about a story you did many moons ago. But I have to say that The National’s Arts and Culture writer Razmig Bedirian did a fantastic job when he called me out of the blue after the death of music icon #tinaturner who has left behind an amazing legacy far beyond her music. Thank you, Razmig for helping me relive one of the most beautiful interviews I have been blessed to have. http://bitly.ws/FNtm #music #TheNational #uae #dubai #musiclegends #srilanka #gulfnews

When Tina Turner rocked Dubai: Fan and journalist recalls meeting the music icon in 1983

In the early 1980s, Tina Turner made a comeback that has been described as one of the greatest in music history, and the UAE played a part in that resurgence.

The singer, who died on Wednesday at the age of 83, had already achieved mainstream success the decade before with her husband, Ike Turner. The couple, as Ike & Tina Turner, had sold millions of records, won a Grammy in 1972, and had performed in landmark venues including the Royal Albert Hall.

But Ike’s drug use increased and he became abusive. The band fell apart in 1976 and their marriage did too, with the couple finalising their divorce in 1978. Facing lawsuits for cancelled performances, Turner began touring again. But audience fervour had petered out and Turner became regarded as a nostalgic act.

That is, until 1983.

Turner’s success in the 1980s needs little elaboration. It was during this time that she produced her most influential albums, including Private Dancer, Break Every Rule and Foreign Affair. She also won six Grammys in that decade.

Just before her soaring comeback, Turner came to the UAE in 1983 to perform in a string of concerts in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that would mark the beginning of her rebirth as a solo artist.

Journalist Lawrence Machado met the singer ahead of her concert at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dubai. Though he covered sport for a local newspaper, he says he leapt at the opportunity to meet Turner, having been an ardent fan of her work since he was a child in Sri Lanka.

“I was so happy to meet her. We grew up to her music,” Machado says. When I went to interview her, there was no internet at the time, but I knew about her and the trouble with her husband. She had a very hard life.”

But Turner was focused on the future, looking forward to establishing herself in the industry. Dubai, Machado says, gave Turner the opportunity to leap back into the spotlight.

“She was trying to come back into show business at the time. She had been out for some time after the problems with her husband. Dubai gave her the chance to ease back into the mainstream in terms of concerts. The Hyatt used to have all the shows in those days. Dubai was coming into its own at the time. A lot of big bands were coming through.”

Machado said his interview with Turner was among his most memorable, and the Sri Lankan journalist, who has been living in Australia since 2003, has sat down with the likes of Pele and Muhammad Ali.

“Tina was a warm, down-to-earth person who had no airs and graces despite being a superstar,” he says. “She answered all my questions. I asked her about her husband, about Ike & Tina Turner, the violence and everything. Of course, I can’t remember word for word, but she was glad it was over. She was looking forward to going out on her own. It was after those concerts in the UAE that she really got that same fame again.”

Machado says he was “very upset” to hear about Turner’s death. She may not have been a close friend, but that single encounter, as well as her music, left a lasting impression on Machado.

“She was someone I always followed,” Machado says. “It’s quite sad. I’ve been playing her music (since the news came out).”

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