Meaning Behind Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It”

Tina Turner had a storied career. She started her journey in music alongside Ike Turner, carving out a space in the R&B and rock scene. During the Turner’s tenure together, they released name-making hits like “Proud Mary” and “River Deep, Mountain High.”

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Though she dabbled in various projects prior, Turner truly jump-started her solo career in 1984 with the release of her debut album, Private Dancer.

Among the track list for that album was the iconic ballad “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” It became one of her biggest hits and is still one of the first songs that come to mind when thinking of Turner.

In the wake of her passing, we have decided to look back at the meaning behind “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”

Behind the Meaning

Though Ike and Tina had an illustrious music career together, their relationship was far less favorable behind the scenes.

Turner was abused by her husband for the duration of their relationship, and though she ultimately divorced him, that aspect of her life was often part of the narrative when discussing her career trajectory.

Turner only took her stage name and two cars in the divorce (per

After picking herself up and dusting herself off, Turner began to work on her comeback album, Private Dancer. The album featured the singles “Let’s Stay Together,” “Better Be Good to Me,” and – the topic of conversation today – “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”

The meaning behind “What’s Love Got to Do With It” is relatively simple. With her iconic belt at the forefront, Turner sings about the growing attraction between two lovers. The song, written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, takes the opposite approach to many other love songs, which often concern themselves with enduring relationships. Instead, Turner tells her lover that it’s purely sexual chemistry she is after.

It’s physical
Only logical
You must try to ignore that it means more than that

What’s love got to do, got to do with it?
What’s love but a second hand emotion?
What’s love got to do, got to do with it?
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?

The song’s message seemed to be relatable enough given that the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making Turner the oldest woman in history at the time to earn a No. 1 song (she has now been surpassed by Cher and Kate Bush).

Though the song helped to solidify Turner’s standing as a solo artist, she originally had qualms with the track. “I was rock and roll,” she once explained. “That was a pop song.”

Nevertheless, Turner’s manager, Roger Davies, convinced her to try her hand at the pop ballad. After Turner “converted it” and made it more her own, it became the timeless hit that it is today.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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