In December of 2020, Rolling Stone Australia released a special edition issue which looks at the 50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time, paying tribute to the best and most impactful artists in Australian music history. While it would have been easy for the editors and writers of the publication to profess their love of the listed artists, the decision was instead made for those who found themselves inspired by these world-renowned names to share their own testimonials of why these artists deserve to make the list.
In celebration of the issue’s release in December, we’re counting down the full 50 artists and their accompanying testimonials in this ongoing online feature. If you want to get your hands on an physical copy of the magazine, be sure to subscribe now to experience the double-length edition featuring some of Australia’s best and brightest discussing the finest names in local music.
50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time – #30: Tina Arena (by Isabella Manfredi of The Preatures)
I remember the first time I heard Tina Arena. It was 1996 and I was nine, sitting in the front passenger seat of my mum’s old beamer, listening to her belt out the lyrics to “Heaven Help My Heart”. My parents had separated that year, and the trips to and from school were bookended by four artists on repeat in mum’s CD-stacker: The Pretenders, The Divinyls, Madonna, and Tina.
I remember the sound of her voice – pure and commanding in the way a shooting star might burn through the sky on its way somewhere. She knew what it was like to fail and fall and get back up again. I could feel it in her voice and in the way my mother cried along to her songs. They were strident, yearning reflections of a woman finding her feet again, jostling for a little independence in a world that had tried to break her spirit. The melodies were massive but the sentiment was simple and sincere. It takes a certain calibre of artist to tell that kind of story, like it’s being sung out of a mountain while speaking right to you.
“I could feel it in her voice and in the way my mother cried along to her songs.”
And a certain kind of songwriter to uncomplicate the truth.
Those songs still fill me with a big sky, deep water feeling I don’t fully understand.
My father is Italian, my mother is Australian, my culture is Italo-Australian, and so for me Tina has always represented the pride and possibility in being both. She is the epitome of an Australian treasure – a timeless voice that keeps soaring. Maybe they could play her a bit more on the radio, eh?