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October 1, 2008

Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY

Tina Turner's explosive Proud Mary duet with Beyoncé at the Grammy Awards was supposed to be a one-shot celebration, not the catalyst for a world tour. But eight years into a cozy retirement, the soulful rocker is returning to the road after a groundswell clamor that began with that knockout appearance

"I was surprised by the reaction because, to be honest, I wasn't quite ready," Turner says of her showstopping moment on the February telecast. With little prep time, she was sporting a snug silver ensemble from her 2000 tour and an unsuitable hairstyle, she says. But she couldn't resist marking the 50th anniversary of both the Grammys and her own stretch in show business.

"It was meant to be," Turner says from Kansas City, Mo., where her tour opens tonight. "It felt good to be there. People said, 'You looked better than Beyoncé.' Well, that's not possible. It's nice that young people hold me up as a model. Beyoncé is elegant and is handling her career well. A lot of new stars go overboard on sex. They're half-naked up there. My dresses were a bit short, but I stayed respectable." Not everyone cheered Turner's triumphant comeback. Offended that Beyoncé had introduced Turner as "the queen," Aretha Franklin objected in a statement the day after the Grammys: "I am not sure of whose toes I may have stepped on or whose ego I may have bruised between the Grammy writers and Beyoncé, however, I dismissed it as a cheap shot for controversy."

Baffled Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich responded that Beyoncé made "an innocent remark (that) wasn't meant to disparage Aretha." Mathew Knowles, Beyoncé's father and manager, dubbed Franklin's reaction "childish" and "unprofessional."

She was mum at the time, but Turner now says: "Aretha has always been like that. We've always accepted that from her. She's the queen of soul, and I'm the queen of rock 'n' roll. There were so many kings and queens there that night. Her ego must be so big to think she was the only one."

Turner laughs. "That's how queens are!"

At 68, she has no time for squabbles, regrets or negative forces. It's one reason she ignored the death last year of ex-husband Ike Turner.

"It meant nothing to me," she says. "He had been dead to me for 20 years." The couple rose to fame as a hot R&B revue in the '60s and '70s, churning out such hits as Proud Mary, Nutbush City Limits and River Deep-Mountain High. She fled the abusive marriage in 1976 and lived on food stamps until her career reignited years later.

"When I left, I really left," she says. "It was a bad dream, and when you spend 16 years in a certain lifestyle, you never want to think about it again."

What's Love Got to Do With It, the film version of her I, Tina autobiography, downplayed the horrors, she says.

"My life then was much worse. It couldn't have gotten lower. And since then, every part of my life has been a high point."

After she signed with Capitol in 1982, her career rebounded with 1984's Private Dancer, winner of four Grammys. She capped off two decades of global success as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 2005.

"I really felt like America honored me," she says. "That was very warming."

She found serenity in her personal life, living in Zurich and the South of France for the past 22 years with German record executive Erwin Bach. She has practiced Buddhism since the '70s.

"We all need a guide," she says. "Buddhism helps me stay positive and happy. You don't get pulled off in unhealthy directions."

Contentment also may explain Turner's youthful appearance and energy.

"I look better than I did at times in the past," she says. "Part of it may be luck of the draw. It could be good genes, but then again, as I look at my family, I have to say I'm the only one that got them."

This blissful period has her contemplating a sequel to 1986's woeful I, Tina.

"Maybe in the next few years," she says. "My head is still quite useful. I'd like for it to be really quite funny and not so depressing."

Turner won't return to the road after wrapping up her European tour next spring, but that doesn't mean she's finished singing and strutting.

"The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, the Eagles, we are the Mozarts of these times," she says. "We're proving we can last. That's the statement I am making."

Something Beautiful Remains
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