Single Stories: Tina Turner, THE BEST

Friday, July 16, 2021

It was 1988 when singer Bonnie Tyler--best known for her mid-'80s smash, "Total Eclipse of the Heart"--released "The Best" as the lead single from her seventh studio album, Hide Your Heart. The song was success across Europe, peaking at #10 on the charts in Norway.

In 1989, Tina Turner took a run at the tune--penned by songwriter Holly Knight--and what resulted became one of the legendary singer's signature songs. The song is played in its entirely at the end of the HBO doc Tina, with Turner calling it her personal epitaph.

"I loved it. I found out things about Tina that I didn't know," Knight told Songfacts about watching the doc in 2021. "I thought it was very honest and raw. I found it very empowering to watch her go from this one person's life to another. Having more detail about the past just made her success all the more real to me, and then it occurred to me that I've made more songs for her than anybody other than Terry Britten."

Turner's version of "The Best" was released in August 1989 as the lead single from Foreign Affair, her seventh solo effort. In America, the song was a hit, reaching #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of November 4, 1989. The #1 tune on the chart: Roxette's "Listen to Your Heart."

Around the world, however, "The Best" was smash, climbing to the upper reaches of the singles charts in multiple countries. It peaked at #2 in Portugal, Belgium, Canada, and Austria. The song was top 5 in Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Europe, and Norway among others.

"It can be so many things, and that's why it has taken on a life of its own," Knight said. "It can be a love song, it can be love for anything, as Tina said. She said, 'It's just a great song and it can be about anything' - a car, a thing, a horse - that's why she used a horse in the video. I couldn't figure that out at the time. But it also is very marketable and it has different trajectories depending on who is singing it and why they are singing it. A lot of people have covered it, and it means something different to different people."

For Knight, the current music landscape could benefit from similar energy: "I think we need the positivity of something like that. The last couple of decades have been so negative and blah," she explained. "The '80s were so much fun, then the '90s came and I guess we were paying for all the consequences of the excess that we had in the '80s."

FUN FACT: The sax solo in "The Best" is played by Texas-born music legend Edgar Winter.

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