How Tina Turner's "The Best" Became An Arena-Sized Hit

"The Best" single cover
Photo Credit
Parlophone Records

When it comes to Tina Turner’s back catalog, it’d be a fool’s errand to determine which single is the best. As it happens, however, she actually released a single called “The Best,” and since it’s a song that received a considerable boost in popularity via its use in a certain sitcom not so long ago - stand up, please, Schitt’s Creek - it’s unquestionably a song worth discussing.

If you don’t know anything about the history of “The Best,” then probably the most surprisingly factoid about the song is that Tina Turner wasn’t the first person to record it. The track was penned by Holly Knight and Mike Chapman, the duo who - along with Nicky Chinn -  had written “Better Be Good to Me.”

In other words, they already had a history with Tina, which is why it’s surprising that they didn’t offer the song to her right off the bat. But as Knight admitted in an interview for the deluxe reissue of Tina’s Foreign Affair album, “Mike and I knew when we were writing it, that ‘The Best’ was a special song, but we had no way of knowing that it would become the universal anthem that it has, beloved by so many.”

After they wrote and demoed the song, Knight and Chapman first sent the demo to a male artist who Knight both admired and had a crush on...and he passed. (Ouch.) After that, however, their publishers managed to place the song on Bonnie Tyler’s 1988 album, Hide Your Heart, where it became a Top 10 in...Norway.

In 1989, however, when Tina was making the aforementioned Foreign Affair album, Knight’s publishers sent “The Best” despite the fact that Tyler had already recorded it, and - what do you know? - Tina loved it and wanted to record it...with a caveat: she felt that it needed a bridge and a key change after the bridge.

“I’d never been in a situation where I’d been asked to rewrite a tune after it’d already been released,” Knight admitted. “But this request was coming from Tina and I always got goosebumps when she said she wanted to cut one of my songs.  I knew she would add her special magic to it. So Mike and I got together and wrote a bridge, recorded a new demo, and sent it over to her. And here’s the best part: she was right about the changes. Now it sounded like a hit.”

LISTEN: An Unreleased Demo of Tina Turner's "The Best"

And indeed it was a hit, and a big one at that: in addition to hitting No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, “The Best” made its way into the Top 5 in England, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, West Germany, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, and Portugal.

Yep, that’s a hit, all right.

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