“I Was Living A Life Of Death” (Exclusive)

“I wasn’t afraid he’d kill me when I left, because I was already dead,” the late singer told PEOPLE in an explosive 1981 interview.

<p>Gary Gershoff/Getty Images;  Lee Celano/WireImage</p>
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Gary Gershoff/Getty Images; Lee Celano/WireImage

Tina Turner and Ike Turner

Tina Turner has said she felt like she “didn’t exist” when she was married to Ike Turner.

In an explosive interview with PEOPLE from December 1981, the legendary singer, who died Wednesday after a long illness at 83, opened up for the first time about her abusive marriage to Ike and how she escaped it.

“I was living a life of death,” Tina said. “I didn’t exist. I wasn’t afraid he would kill me when I left, because I was already dead. When I came out, I didn’t look back.”

She said she felt like “just a shadow” in the mid-1960s during their hit Ike & Tina Turner Revue, telling PEOPLE, “Ike took care of everything – the sound, the band, the hiring people, direction, and money” while she was expected to do things like make breakfast for the group at 4 a.m.

Later in their marriage, Tina found the strength to study and practice Buddhism. But Ike’s physical abuse only escalated.

“When Ike saw me sing,” she said, “the veins in his face gouged out. He didn’t want to hear anything that could empower me.”

Ike might be “very loving,” Tina said – but it didn’t come without strings attached. “He helped a lot of people in trouble. But you owe him your life. He didn’t give freely,” she told PEOPLE.

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CBS via Getty Images

Tina Turner and Ike Turner

Related: Tina Turner Credited David Bowie for Saving Her Career After ‘Abusive’ Marriage to Ike Turner

The eight-time Grammy winner and Ike, who died of a cocaine overdose in December 2007, married in 1962 and divorced 16 years later. She then married her second husband Erwin Bach in 2013, after 27 years together.

Tina escaped from Ike on July 1, 1976, while the couple were on tour, staying at the Statler Hilton in Dallas. Ike beat her “all the way from the airport to the hotel,” Tina recalled to PEOPLE. “By the time we got to the hotel, the left side of my face was swollen like a monster’s.”

At the hotel, Tina said, “I massaged him and cooed, ‘Can I order some food for you, honey?’ Then he made the mistake of falling asleep.” With only 36 cents in her pocket and a Mobil credit card in her wallet, Tina sprinted down the highway in the dark of night to another hotel.

“I didn’t measure the speed of a car. I was running down the highway and this big truck was coming and it [beeped its horn]. I felt like it was over for me and I was like, ‘Well, I won’t try that again,'” she added of the heartbreaking escape during an appearance in 2017 on The Jonathan Ross Show.

Despite the immense risk, Tina never looked back, she said on the show: “It was just about time to stop taking it. It was constantly abusive, other things were going on, there was no control, there was no freedom, it was just the same thing, the same thing and violence. You get sick of it and you say, “Life isn’t worth living. lived if I have to stay in this situation.”

A friend bought him a plane ticket to Los Angeles and out of Ike’s life. “I felt proud,” Tina told PEOPLE. “I felt strong.”

<p>Michael Ochs Archives/Getty</p>
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Michael Ochs/Getty Archive

Ike and Tina Turner circa 1972

Related: Why Tina Turner Forgave Ex Ike After Years of Brutal Abuse: It’s ‘All Forgotten’

The legendary singer died on Wednesday after a long illness at her home near Zurich in Switzerland, her press officer Bernard Doherty confirmed in a statement.

“Tina Turner, the ‘Queen of Rock ‘n Roll’ died peacefully today at the age of 83 after a long illness at her home in K├╝snacht near Zurich, Switzerland. With her, the world loses a legend music and a role model,” the statement read.

He continued, “There will be a private funeral ceremony attended by close friends and family. Please respect his family’s privacy at this difficult time.”

Tina is survived by her husband Bach, 67, as well as her sons Ike Turner Jr. and Michael Turner. She was predeceased by her sons Ronnie Turner and Craig Raymond Turner.

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