Tina Turner Revealed Harrowing Night She Escaped Ike Turner's Abuse: 'I Was Living a Life of Death' (Exclusive)

·4-min read

"I didn't fear him killing me when I left, because I was already dead," the late singer told PEOPLE in a 1981 bombshell interview

<p>Gary Gershoff/Getty Images; Lee Celano/WireImage</p> Tina Turner and Ike Turner

Gary Gershoff/Getty Images; Lee Celano/WireImage

Tina Turner and Ike Turner

Tina Turner said she felt like she "didn't exist" when she was married to Ike Turner.

In a bombshell interview with PEOPLE from December 1981, the legendary singer, who died Wednesday after a long illness at age 83, spoke out 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 didn't fear him killing me when I left, because I was already dead. When I walked out, I didn't look back."

She said she felt like "just a shadow" in the mid-1960s during their Ike & Tina Turner Revue success, telling PEOPLE, "Ike took care of everything — the sound, the band, hiring people, management and money" while she was expected to carry out tasks like cooking breakfast for the band at 4 a.m.

Later in their marriage, Tina found strength in studying and practicing Buddhism. But Ike's physical abuse only intensified.

"When Ike saw me chanting," she said, "the veins in his face popped out. He didn't want to hear about anything that would give me power."

Ike could be "very loving," Tina said — but it didn't come without strings. "He helped a lot of people in trouble. But you owed him your life. He didn't give freely," she told PEOPLE.

<p>CBS via Getty Images</p> Tina Turner and Ike Turner

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, were married in 1962, divorcing 16 years later. She went on to marry second husband Erwin Bach in 2013, after 27 years together.

Tina made her escape from Ike on July 1, 1976, while the pair were on tour, staying at the Statler Hilton in Dallas. Ike had beaten her "the entire 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 you any food, dear?' Then he made the mistake of going to sleep." With only 36 cents in her pocket and a Mobil credit card in her wallet, Tina sprinted across the freeway in the dark of night to another hotel.

"I didn't measure the speed of a car. I was running across the freeway and this big truck was coming and it [beeped its horn]. It felt like it was over me and I thought, 'Well, I won’t try that again,' " she added of the harrowing escape during a 2017 appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show.

Despite the immense risk, Tina never looked back, she said on the show: "It was just time to not take any more. It was constantly abusive, other things going on, there was no control, there was no freedom, it was just the same this, same this and the violence. You just get fed up and you say, 'Life is not worth living if I’m going to stay in this situation.' "

A friend bought her a plane ticket home to L.A. and out of Ike's life. "I felt proud," Tina told PEOPLE. "I felt strong."

<p> Michael Ochs Archives/Getty</p> Ike and Tina Turner circa 1972

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

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 Wednesday after a long illness at her home near Zurich in Switzerland, her publicist Bernard Doherty confirmed in a statement.

"Tina Turner, the "Queen of Rock'n Roll" has died peacefully today at the age of 83 after a long illness in her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland. With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model," the statement read.

It continued, "There will be a private funeral ceremony attended by close friends and family. Please respect the privacy of her family at this difficult time."

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

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