If you don’t know Tina Turner’s spirituality, you don’t know Tina.
When Tina Turner reclaimed her throne as the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the 1980s, she attributed her comeback to one thing: the wisdom and power she found in Buddhism. Her spiritual transformation is often overshadowed by the rags-to-riches arc of her life story. But in this groundbreaking biography, Ralph H. Craig III traces Tina’s journey from the Black Baptist church to Buddhism and situates her at the vanguard of large-scale movements in religion and pop culture.
Paying special attention to the diverse metaphysical beliefs that shaped her spiritual life, Craig untangles Tina’s Soka Gakkai Buddhist foundation; her incorporation of New Age ideas popularized in ’60s counterculture; and her upbringing in a Black Baptist congregation, alongside the influences of her grandmothers’ disciplinary and mystical sensibilities. Through critical engagement with Tina’s personal life and public brand, Craig sheds light on how popular culture has been used as a vehicle for authentic religious teaching. Scholars and fans alike will find Dancing in My Dreams as enlightening as the iconic singer herself.
Ralph H. Craig III is a scholar of religion, holding a PhD in religious studies from Stanford University. He received his BA in theological studies from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA. He specializes in Buddhism, with a focus on South Asian Buddhism and American Buddhism. His research interests include comparative religion, religion and popular culture, literature, and African American studies.
Library Journal “With Turner’s recent death, this tome is a thoughtful tribute.”
Booklist “By narrating Turner’s spiritual journey in relation to larger movements in recent religious and music history, Craig considers the way religion and pop culture intersect. Those interested in either field will appreciate how Craig’s research honors Turner’s legacy as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all those seeking to find their path in life.”
“The greatest performer in the history of rock and roll finally gets her proper due as a religious icon. Ralph Craig offers an indispensable primer on how Turner’s capacity for survival and stardom derived in no small part from her spirituality.” —Kathryn Lofton, Yale University
“Ralph Craig’s biography brings forth interconnections between southern church traditions, nature-based mysticism, the blues, rock ’n’ roll, and Buddhism through the extraordinary life of Tina Turner. His breadth of knowledge of each of these domains is striking, as is his ability to weave together academic research with the distinct cadences of Turner’s voice. Craig’s respect for Tina Turner’s life, including her practice and teaching of Buddhism, renders this book a moving narrative that illuminates how Buddhism is relevant—indeed, transformative—for Black people in the US context.” —Rima Vesely-Flad, author of Black Buddhists and the Black Radical Tradition: The Practice of Stillness in the Movement for Liberation
“In this engaging and compelling biography, Craig makes a persuasive case for the significance of religion in Tina Turner’s life . . . . Craig’s work makes Turner, an unforgettable figure in American music history, an equally unforgettable figure in American religious history.” —Judith Weisenfeld, author of New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity during the Great Migration
“Ralph H. Craig III has gifted the field of religious studies and the world with this critical, ambitious, and beautifully written religious biography of Tina Turner, Black Buddhist woman and pop culture icon. . . . This indispensable volume blends together the myriad worlds and religious ways of knowing at the helm of Turner’s artistic and aesthetic productions, and it offers a daring challenge to earnestly sit with and learn from Tina. Dancing in My Dreams is, without question, a must-read.” —Ahmad Greene-Hayes, Harvard Divinity School
“A deep, exciting journey through Tina Turner’s Black Christian roots, adult explorations of American metaphysical religion, and embrace of Soka Gakkai International Nichiren Buddhism. This insightful biography casts new light on Turner’s ‘combinatory religious repertoire’ and artistic spirituality beyond lay status. For religious studies and Africana studies, Ralph Craig’s comprehensive scholarship introduces a fresh understanding of spiritual leadership with Tina—a Black woman, survivor, global music superstar, and Buddhist teacher.” —Vaughn A. Booker, author of Lift Every Voice and Swing: Black Musicians and Religious Culture in the Jazz Century
Publishers Weekly “Craig skillfully balances rigorous research with insight into Turner’s psyche to unearth new dimensions of her life and career, and in the process gives welcome due to the oft-neglected role of Black Americans in the history of Buddhism in the West. Even the most ardent of Turner’s fans will be enlightened.”
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