The Who's Pete Townshend Pays Tribute to Tina Turner: 'She Was an Immense Presence' (Exclusive)

The late singer infamously played the "Acid Queen" in The Who's 1975 film 'Tommy,' which is based on their rock album of the same name

<p>Getty (2)</p> Tina Turner; Pete Townshend

Getty (2)

Tina Turner; Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend is paying tribute to Tina Turner.

The Who co-founder and guitarist, 78, commemorates the "Proud Mary" singer, who died Wednesday at age 83 after a long illness, in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE.

"Sad to hear we have lost Tina Turner," Townshend says. "She had been ill for a long time, and struggling to stay in touch with old friends. She will have some peace now."

He went on to remember Tuner as an "astonishing performer" and an "astounding singer," as well as an "R&B groundbreaker."

Turner infamously played the "Acid Queen" in The Who's 1975 film Tommy, which is based on their rock album of the same name.

<p>Paul Natkin/Getty</p> Tina Turner

Paul Natkin/Getty

Tina Turner

Related: Queen of Rock &#39;n&#39; Roll Tina Turner Dead at 83 After &#39;Long Illness&#39;: Rep

"We don't want to say too much about Ike Turner — her abusive husband — but her early records with him were simply out of this world," Townshend says. "She always took flight when she worked with him, leaving him like a fifth wheel, chipping away at his basic riffs. When she was finally free of him her work ascended to new even higher heights. It didn't seem possible."

"If you ever had the privilege of seeing Tina perform live you will know how utterly scary she could be," he continues. "She was an immense presence. A female Little Richard. She seemed like a giant: shaking, sexual, physical and stunningly beautiful. In the flesh she was fragile, vulnerable and a truly sweet and empathetic person."

<p>YouTube</p> Tina Turner as the Acid Queen


Tina Turner as the Acid Queen

Related: Tina Turner Remembered by Celebs Following Her Death at 83: &#39;There Will Never Be Another&#39;

Townshend wrote "Acid Queen," which Turner went on to release as a single in the U.K., and he tells PEOPLE, "It is often my job to sing that song with The Who, so she always comes into my mind. It isn’t easy to deal with.”

“The song is about abuse at the hands of an evil woman. How she turned that song on its head!" he continues. "All the anger of her years as a victim exploded into fire and bluster and a magnificent and crazy cameo role that will always stay with me."

"She has been in my mind for the last 10 years, I kept meaning to track her down, and see how she was," Townshend concludes his statement. "I truly thought she would live forever."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Townshend has been a friend to the singer for years, and he previously recorded a special message wishing her well for her 80th birthday in 2019.

In the video posted to Turner's Instagram account, he told the singer, "I love you. I've always loved you. I miss you. I keep thinking I’m going to send you a letter. I will. We'll get together. We'll have lunch."

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.