The Link Between Tina Turner’s Comeback Hit “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and Her ‘Mad Max’ Theme Song “We Don’t Need Another Hero”

After the songwriting duo written by Graham Lyle and Terry Britten delivered a comeback song for the ages to Tina Turner with “What’s Love Got to Do With It” from her 1984 album Private Dancer, the duo went on to write half of the tracks on Turner’s follow up album Break Every Rule, which went to No. 4 on the Billboard 200 with the hit “Typical Man.”

In between the release of both albums, Turner also starred in the third installment of the post-apocalyptic action film Mad Max: Thunderdome with Mel Gibson, as Aunty Entity, the chain-mail-clad “Bust a Deal, Face the Wheel” ruler of Bartertown.

The role came at a favorable time for Turner. Private Dancer went to No. 3 on the chart, and three hours after learning that director George Miller wanted her to play Aunty Entity, “What’s Love Got to Do With It” went to No. 1. “When we were writing it, we needed someone who was very regal, very powerful … in a post-apocalyptic world,” remembered Miller of casting Turner in Mad Max. “We kept saying ‘Someone like Tina Turner,’ so we eventually came to casting and said ‘Well, why not ask Tina Turner?”

For the film, Lyle and Britten were tasked with writing its theme song, and Turner recorded “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” which plays over the closing credits.

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Life Beyond Thunderdome

The lyrics plot the dystopian world where people live in constant fear and the Thunderdome, where fights to the death take place in a gladiator-like arena.

Out of the ruins
Out from the wreckage
Can’t make the same mistake this time
We are the children
The last generation (the last generation, generation)
We are the ones they left behind

And, I wonder when we are ever gonna change, change
Living under the fear, ’til nothing else remains

We don’t need another hero
We don’t need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond Thunderdome

Looking for something, we can rely on
There’s gotta be something better out there
Ooh, love and compassion
Their day is coming (coming)

All else are castles built in the air and, I wonder when we are ever gonna change, change
Living under the fear, ’til nothing else remains

All the children say
We don’t need another hero
We don’t need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond Thunderdome

So, what do we do with our lives
We leave only a mark
Will our story shine like a light or end in the dark?
Give it all or nothing

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In the song, the children’s choir from King’s House School in South London can be heard in the chorus and recorded their vocals for the track at Abbey Road. Among the children in the choir at the time was a future World Rugby Hall of Famer Lawrence Dallaglio. With the choir, Dallaglio also performed at the wedding of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

“I brought my real-life experiences to ‘Mad Max'”

“We Don’t Need Another Hero” was another hit for Turner, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. 

On the Thunderdome soundtrack, Turner also recorded the opening track in the film, “One Of The Living,” which went to No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. “One of the Living,” was written by Holly Knight, who also wrote Pat Benatar‘s 1983 hit “Love is a Battlefield” and “The Warrior” by Scandal with Patty Smyth. Knight also penned “The Best,” which was first recorded by Bonnie Tyler in 1988 and became another megahit for Turner a year later.

“I brought my real-life experiences to ‘Mad Max,” recalled Turner of the role and singing the theme song in a 2021 interview. “I had gone through some dangerous and destructive periods, especially during my first marriage and that messy divorce. So, for ‘Mad Max,’ my sense of independence, self-reliance, and hard work ethic made their way into that role and into songs that I sang, like ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero,’ for the soundtrack.”

Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

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