Saturday, May 25, 2024

Tina Turner on “Changing Poison Into Medicine”

On my last night with the McGowan family in Gulmarrad, we watched the 2021 documentay Tina, about the late, great Queen of Rock’n’Roll, Tina Turner.

Following is the trailer for this compelling work of film-making from directors Dan Lindsay and T. J. Martin.

A few weeks before my Australian sojourn I encountered through my work as a hospital chaplain in Minneapolis, a patient whom I’ll call Tony.

I had a very heartfelt and meaningful encounter with Tony who shared with me his recent experience of dialysis, and how he’ll most likely need dialysis twice a week for the rest of his life. He became tearful when he told me that his daughter had offered him one of her kidneys.

What’s this got to do with Tina Turner? . . . Well, I mentioned to Tony that a famous person he may have heard of had also dealt with multiple health issues, including the need for dialysis and a kidney transplant. Yes, Tina Turner.

This information was new to Brian but it piqued his curiosity as he was an admirer of Turner, her music, and her life story, one that’s all about overcoming adversity. Brian wanted to know more and so I shared with him what I knew about Turner’s experience from my recent reading of her second autobiography, My Love Story.

I visited Tony again the next day. He told me how he felt very blessed in having recently found the strength to make important changes and choices in his life. Building on Tony’s admiration for Tina Turner, I reminded him that she too had gone through many health crises and had made certain choices in terms of how she viewed and responded to them. This struck a chord with Tony.

I then shared with Tony an excerpt from Turner’s 2010 book, Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good. This excerpt relates Turner’s experience of “changing poison into medicine.” Brian said he very much resonated with both this imagery and the experience it described.

In talking about this particular experience, Turner mentioned the need to engage in “wholesome practices” like chanting, praying, meditating and/or exercising so as to “create meaningful and lasting changes” in one’s life. Brian identified reading the Bible as his preferred “wholesome practice.” His favorite Bible reading, he said, is Psalm 23.

Following is the excerpt from Happiness Becomes You that I shared with Tony.


The concept of changing poison into medicine is based on the idea that when you raise your life condition, you can use the resulting wisdom, courage, and compassion to convert any negative into a positive. If you have a minor problem, you can transform it into a minor benefit. If you have a major problem, it has the potential to become a major benefit.

Changing poison into medicine, then, starts with the simple step of facing your problems with the confidence that you have the power within you not just to overcome challenges, but also to thrive because of them – to rise up to greater heights than you ever have before.

The key is raising our life condition. By “life condition” I mean our ever-changing moods, thoughts, and general states of being that powerfully influence our emotions, our actions, and our view of ourselves and others. When you lack confidence, when you’ve lost focus, or when your mind-set needs a boost, then super-charge your intention by chanting, praying, meditating, exercising, or whatever wholesome practice lifts you up.

Elevating your life condition through one or more of these practices is essential to creating meaningful, lasting changes in your life.

Only when we achieve a high life condition can we face any circumstance head-on with an open, embracing spirit. There is then no problem too difficult to overcome, no obstacle too stubborn to move.

From this elevated state, we can see that the obstacles we face hold the lessons we must learn to make our dreams come true.

With this understanding, we can call up the wisdom to choose positive responses and actions (in thought, word, and deed) that will lead to constructive changes and help us to avoid making situations worse for ourselves, or others.

Thanks to this process, I began to see that any problems in my life were also opportunities for growth and becoming a better, happier version of myself. Every obstacle could help me to become a wiser, stronger, and more compassionate person.

. . . Jazz music is an example of changing poison into medicine. African Americans created jazz, a great medicine for people’s hearts, out of the poisonous experience of slavery. Jazz developed from African culture, gospel music, and blues to lift up the spirits of oppressed people, and now it brings joy to people the world over.

Jazz holds a special place in my heart, too.

When I left Ike in 1976, I was penniless. I wanted to work, but it was difficult to relaunch as a solo act. Whenever someone heard the name “Tina,” they’d say, “Where’s Ike?” I lacked the most basic resources I needed to start my new life. Through those hardest times, two jazz musicians – Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock – and their families helped to keep me and my sons afloat. . . . They inspired me to never give up, to dream even bigger dreams.

– Tina Turner
From her book, Happiness Becomes You:
A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good

Atria Books, 2010


I close this post by sharing the music video for “Something Beautiful,” Terry Britten’s 2023 remix of Tina Turner’s song “Something Beatiful Remains,” from her 1996 album Wildest Dreams.

For more of Tina Turner at The Wild Reed, see:
Rhone Fraser: Quote of the Day – May 24, 2023
Remembering Tina Turner
What Life Taught Tina Turner
Remembering Tina’s Foreign Affair

Previously featured musicians at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Seal | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | Carl Anderson | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur | Nakhane Touré | Al Green | Donald Glover/Childish Gambino | Josh Garrels | Stromae | Damiyr Shuford | Vaudou Game | Yotha Yindi and The Treaty Project | Lil Nas X | Daby Touré | Sheku Kanneh-Mason | Susan Boyle | D’Angelo | Little Richard | Black Pumas | Mbemba Diebaté | Judie Tzuke | Seckou Keita | Rahsaan Patterson | Black | Ash Dargan | ABBA | The KLF and Tammy Wynette | Luke James and Samoht | Julee Cruise | Olivia Newton-John | Dyllón Burnside | Christine McVie | Rita Coolidge | Bettye LaVette | Burt Bacharach | Kimi Djabaté | Benjamin Booker | Tina Turner | Julie Covington

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