i dreamed about my mother for the first time in a long time last night. waking from those all-too-real dreams used to leave me wallowing in the quicksand of regret over the loss of control over things we had no control of. but not this time. i spent the rest of the day watching shows she loved, like “murder she wrote” and “matlock.” i listened to the music she loved, like donna summer and the pointer sisters. and then i was reminded that my taste for all things queer can be traced back to her.
my mother loved divas. dionne, diana, patti, liza, and tina turner. my mother loved all these women because of the unwavering resilient energy they radiated. beyond their musical prowess and ability to set every stage on fire with their electrifying performances, even as a young music lover, i recognized that they were all an emblem of strength and inspiration – even if i could not communicate why and how. but i knew by watching my mother scream aloud during tina turner’s now legendary 1985 grammy performance of her comeback hit “what’s love got to do,” where she so fiercely walked down a staircase that looked as if it was ascending from heaven, that tina turner was the queen of queens. a queen of rock that reigned supreme.
my love for tina officially began upon the release of her single, “we don’t need another hero.” featured in the post-apocalyptic “mad max beyond thunderdome” motion picture starring mel gibson and tina herself, “we don’t need another hero,” and its accompanying music video captured my imagination in ways that no other diva did before or after. her striking woman warrior presence in a dystopian world refusing to wait for a savior, coupled with the song’s somber sonic tone and powerful lyrics, resonated with me as a queer kid who was ruthlessly teased in school and teased in family circles because of my mother’s struggle with addiction. the song was a kind of rallying cry because even at such a young age, i knew that saviors and messiahs were often simply fairy tales.
“Out of the ruins
Out from the wreckage
I can’t make the same mistake this time
We are the children
The last generation
We are the ones they left behind”
“mad max beyond thunderdome” and “we don’t need another hero” were released in july 1985, just as the nuclear cold war era was coming to an end. the movie’s theme of communities attempting to rebuild in the aftermath of nuclear war appealed to moviegoers during a time when the cold war era was coming to an end after years of nuclear war between the US and russia. while there was a budding hope in the air of nuclear disarmament, Black and latinx communities were left behind just as the onslaught of the AIDS crisis and crack epidemic was annihilating us. our communities were left out of the vision of a peaceful world.
tina’s brilliant vocal performance encapsulates her indomitable spirit and invites the listeners to be defiant in a crumbling world. and, for me, the most powerful and compelling part of the song at its climax when she powerfully sings, “all the children say!…” and the children’s choirs beautifully sing the song’s hook:
“We don’t need another hero
We don’t need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond the thunderdome.”
decades after its release, “we don’t need another hero” holds significance in history, pop culture, and my personal story. the song serves as evidence of not just the worlds my mother and myself survived but the new worlds built and rebuilt by those in our communities. it is a lesson of not needing heroes as much as we need each other. maybe that’s why my mother visited me in dreams. to remind me, this is one of the reasons why tina is queen. because her voice changed how we hear, see, feel, and experience the world.
all hail the queen.
rest in power, tina.