Capitol Records has condemned a former executive’s “reprehensible and appalling” remarks calling Tina Turner the N-word as revealed in the new HBO documentary “Tina.”
“The incident that John Carter describes in the HBO documentary, ‘Tina,’ would have occurred 40 years ago when Capitol was under different ownership and management, and we’re only now learning of those reprehensible and appalling comments,” a Capitol Music Group spokesperson told TheWrap exclusively. “Capitol Music Group is proud of our association with Tina Turner and the role we play in ensuring her music will continue to inspire new generations for decades to come.”
“Tina” features audio from a 2009 interview in which John Carter, the Capitol producer, songwriter and A&R representative credited with reviving Turner’s career in the early 1980s, details the pushback against the singer after he signed her to the label.
“The new regime comes in and like any new regime – they have their own idea of what they want to do. So I flip out, go downstairs and I say, ‘Hey, this is my act.’ And the classic quote is, ‘Carter, you signed this old n—- douchebag?'” Carter, who died in 2011, said in the clip.
Carter does not identify which executive made those comments. According to the company, Don Zimmerman, who passed away in 2020, ran Capitol Records at the time and was named president in 1982, around the time of the incident.
In a history of Capitol Records compiled by the record label and published by Taschen recently, a similar anecdote appears – though without the racial slur. The book notes: “When Carter told me they were signing Tina, I said, ‘Have you lost your mind?’ confesses Don Zimmerman, Capitol’s new president. ‘But I was laughing as I said it.'”
Carter had just signed Turner to Capitol when that exchange took place. In the 2009 interview, he went on to explain how he refused to back down and after some tense back and forth, convinced Capitol executives not to drop Turner from the label. Even so, executives told him he and Turner would receive almost no support from Capitol once her album was finished.
As it happens, that album turned out to be Turner’s groundbreaking pop smash “Private Dancer,” whose title track was produced by Carter. Released in May, 1984, “Private Dancer” spawned 7 singles, including the number one hit “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” The album, and sold 20 million copies.