2 | Ike & Tina Turner – River Deep, Mountain High

Music, Storytelling

Writer, filmmaker, and former financial trader Adam Linn shares how a whole different shade of Tina Turner guided him like a guardian angel in a rollicking, (literally) blind drive over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge during a dark time in his youth in the 1990s.


About Adam Linn

Adam Linn is an NPR contributor, novelist, essayist, and committed New Yorker. Linn is the rare humorist who can get audiences to laugh out loud, while at the same time making them question their assumptions about the world around them. His work includes the award winning novel American Sexy, which describes what happens when an evil reality TV host turns his followers into monsters (sound eerily familiar?), and the personal essay Blind Ninja, recently adapted for NPR’s Snap Judgement, in which Linn tells the story of stealing sex tapes at a school for the blind.


Five Facts About “River Deep, Mountain High

1. The song’s co-writer (w/Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich) and producer Phil Spector – sought after by clients such as The Beatles and The Ramones for his ultra dense, large-ensemble Wall of Sound production method – would go on to proclaim the track as the best work of his career. But the tune’s biggest splash was confined across the pond in the U.K., where it peaked at #3 on the charts for first-release singles. It did, though, make a mark as #33 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list in 2004.

2. Tina Turner was only 26 years old when the original 1966 promo recording of this song (also the title track of the artist’s second album with Ike Turner) was being recorded, but her saga of drama with Ike had already begun. Spector paid Ike $20,000 and promised to credit his name in the song (though only Tina’s vocals would be used) if the man stayed away from the studio and from Tina during the creative process. To put this into perspective, the production of the song itself cost $22,000 – a stupefying amount back then and $163,633.64 in today’s dollars. To put this further into perspective, NPR estimated in 2011 that a pop song by Rihanna cost about $78,000 to churn out.

3. The recording process was further dramatized when it was featured in Tina’s Oscar-nominated biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It in 1993.

4. At the apex of the American Civil Rights Movement, the aesthetic of the production hit some listeners as something removed from the R&B/soul sound, and prompted criticism that the artist had diverged from her musical roots.

5. The song would go on to be covered by an eclectic variety of legendary artists, ranging from The Four Tops and The Supremes of Motown glory to soft rocker Harry Nilsson to English rockers Deep Purple to blockbuster French Canadian chanteuse Céline Dion.


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