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Today we’re going back to the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival (where, among other things, Dizzy Gillespie led a 70th birthday tribute to Louis Armstrong) for a pristine recording of Ike & Tina Turner cannonballing through a breathtaking 9-minute cover of Otis Redding’s—and, later, Aretha Franklin’s—”Respect.” The Turners are in peak form—Tina growling and belting with pitch perfection, Ike leading the band around sharp turns with bright, agile guitar work. But the backbone of “Respect” is the midsong sermon delivered by Tina.
At the 2-minute mark of the song, the band—replete with horn section and Ikettes—drops back so Tina can step up and proclaim the ascent of the powerful modern woman. “The men do what they want to do, whenever they want to do it,” she tells the crowd. The context here—i.e. the years of alleged spousal abuse by Ike, whose barbaric violence has been well documented in books, film and song—is remarkable enough. But the truth is, the men-better-watch-out breakdown on “Respect” was a regular feature of Ike and Tina’s show—which somehow, strangely, makes it all the more powerful.
But on this night, when Tina puts the philandering Ike square in the crosshairs in front of the Newport crowd, it becomes a remarkable moment in music history.
“I’m gonna take a second because I want to talk about respect. I want to talk about it because, you see, respect is what I want. I think it what most of us want. But you know we don’t always get what we want—especially us women. Tonight, I’m gonna speak for us women. Because you see, we hardly ever get what we want. But you know who always get what they want? The men. That’s right. The men do what they want to do, whenever they want to do it. And they do it with whoever they want to do it with. Most of the times, with the other women out there in the streets. But a lot of times when he’s out there, he gets what we wants. But later on, he don’t want what he got. So then he comes home for his respect—but then, you know how word gets around. When he gets home, his old lady’s already heard about him. She says to him, ‘I heard about you today out there with your other woman.’ But he has the nerve to ask her, ‘Which one?’ Yeah he gets uptight and wants to know, ‘Who told ya?’”
Ike and the band quickly jump in to play a few airtight bars of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” with Tina out front preaching it.
“Fellas, I’m gonna tell you: Today things have changed. Us women have come a long way, and on the way up we made some changes, and I don’t mean changing clothes. I mean we’ve changed as far as wantin’ some of the same things you men want.”
To which Ike coyly responds, “I doubt that seriously.” The line gets a laugh from the crowd, but Tina returns fire.
“I’m gonna talk about one of you men right now. I’m gonna talk about Ike. You see because, Ike is a problem in more ways that one. Most of the times, I don’t know whether he’s going or coming. When I really get down with him, you know what he tells me? He says, ‘Well how can I appreciate what I got here at home if I can’t test what’s out there in the streets?’”
She concludes: “The downfall of a lot of you good men is the upkeep of too many women.”
The song, however, is far from over. Ike and Tina still manage to lead the band into a quick “Satisfaction” detour, teach the Newport crowd the soul clap, and finally stick the landing. Given what we know about what was going on in the Turner home, it never ceases to amaze how completely perfect they were for each other onstage.
Listen to Ike & Tina Turner play “Land of 1,000 Dances” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” at the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival.