“Proud Mary” by Ike & Tina Turner
“Proud Mary” is a song that was originally dropped by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969. As such that outfit’s frontman, John Fogerty, is credited as its writer.
Ike & Tina Turner’s version came out on 8 August 1971 and served as the second single from their album “Workin’ Together”, which is a product of Liberty Records. Ike and Tina managed to drop over 20 studio albums in total, and “Workin’ Together”, peaking at number 25 on the Billboard 200, can be considered the most successful.
Relatedly, “Proud Mary” stands as the duo’s signature hit, where on its own it managed to reach second place on the Billboard Hot 100 and eighth place on the UK Singles Chart, in addition to being an actual chart topper in a number of countries (including on the US Record World listing).
The track also went on to be certified double-platinum by the RIAA and has been lauded as Tina Turner’s breakthrough song. In fact, it was Tina who recommended it be included on “Workin’ Together” when the album was still in need of a few tracks, as she had a personal affinity for “Proud Mary”, and she and Ike had been covering it live beforehand.
“Proud Mary” also earned the duo their first and only standard Grammy Award, in 1972, in the category of Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group. And later down the line, in 1999, their rendition was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
THE “WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT” VERSION
Also interesting to note is that the late Tina Turner holds the distinction of being one of the first musicians to get the major biopic treatment. That would of course be via 1993’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, with Angela Bassett holding down the role of Tina, and Laurence Fishburne portraying Ike.
Being that the film does in large part center on the Turners time together, “Proud Mary” is of course found therein. However, it is a re-recording that Tina laid down with one Tim Cappello in the place of Ike. She reportedly did so in the name of denying her ex-husband any related royalties.
Indeed, it has also been reportedly, presumably because their breakup was so tumultuous, that Tina never personally saw Ike again after they divorced in 1978, with the latter going on to pass away in 2007.
WHO IS PROUD MARY?
“Proud Mary” can be hastily interpreted as a person or generally be taken as a symbol. And if the latter, what it most simply symbolizes is, shall we say, a carefree spirit, i.e. one that refuses to accept a humdrum, mundane life.
For instance, when we first meet the vocalist, she’s engaged in run-of-the-mill occupations such as apparently working in a restaurant and in a gas station. And it isn’t such that Tina is complaining about the pay.
To the contrary, she claims to have “left a good job in the city”, because that lifestyle seemingly proved too routine for her liking.
Where the subject does find excitement though is upon “rolling on the river”. That phrase, as rendered by Tina (and Ike) Turner, can be considered one of the most-famous in rock music history.
But it should be noted that within the context of this narrative, it is both literal and symbolic. That is to say that upon ditching the man, the vocalist, who resides in the New Orleans area, decides to jump on “the riverboat queen”, which is a name used for boats that sail on the Mississippi River. And it takes her to “the good side of the city”, “down… the river” to a place where, as implied in the fifth verse, the people are so cool that you can chill there even without money.
“Big wheel keep on turning
Proud Mary keep on burning
And we’re rolling (rolling)
Rolling, yeah (rolling)
Rolling on the river (rolling on the river)”
With that said, it should be pointed out that “Proud Mary” doesn’t appear to be the name of the character the vocalist is portraying. Instead, it is the moniker given to the aforementioned riverboat.
So when Tina gets to exclaiming “Proud Mary keeps on burning”, that would be a reference to the boat’s steam engine, which is empowering the vocalist and likeminded individuals to ‘roll on the river’.
So we can conclude by saying that this is an idyllic song centered on the notion of breaking away from the 9 to 5 cycle and into a more edifying life. John Fogerty is from California, not the Deep South, but perhaps he knows of some places within the latter that are really carefree like that. But more logically it would appear that he is speaking to an ideology, i.e. the “Proud Mary” ultimately symbolizing an escape from the rat race.
A Personal Comment
I would like to use this opportunity to express my gratitude to Tina Turner for graciously sharing her extraordinary talent, infectious energy, and unwavering determination with the world. Throughout my teenage years and beyond, her music has accompanied countless joyous moments in my life. I am fortunate to have lived during her lifetime and experienced the impact she made on humanity. THANK YOU! May she find eternal peace.