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Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King knew the end was near for Tina Turner, but it still didn’t prepare them for the Queen of Rock 'n' Roll’s death on Wednesday.
While on Thursday's episode of CBS Mornings, Winfrey and King, who were on the show from Italy, recalled learning the news of Turner's passing. She was 83
"We keep hearing that song, ‘What's Love Got To Do With It,' when it comes to Tina Turner. I don’t know anybody who didn't love her. We've all known Tina wasn't doing well, but still when you get the news, it was a shock," said King.
Winfrey added, "It was a blow, it was a blow. I was certainly aware that she was ill but I had seen her in 2019 and gone to visit her in the hospital and she had said to me then that she was actually ready to go, meaning, ready to leave the planet. I expected then that was going to be the last time that I saw her.”
Turner dealt with numerous health issues – including kidney failure, intestinal cancer, and strokes – and it was her husband, Erwin Bach, who played a vital role in her journey.
"I just have to say that her husband, Erwin Bach, is the most extraordinary person I’ve ever known," said Winfrey. "I mean, he literally willed her to live and she's been through, you know, one health crisis after another."
"She just kept coming back," King added.
In 2016, Turner's kidneys started to fail and Bach stepped in and donated his own kidney to save Turner.
King said that she sees this moment as a chance to be "celebrating" Turner's life, and noted that she and Winfrey have been dancing and playing her songs since hearing the news.
Winfrey also opened up about being a fan-turned-friend to Turner. In 1996 and 1997, Winfrey and The Oprah Winfrey Show followed Turner's Wildest Dreams tour around the country. Winfrey even had a wig styled after the music legend, and once told fans that she "wouldn't take the wig off," even to go to sleep.
"I said to my producers then, 'We’re going to follow her wherever she’s going.' I became the world's biggest groupie, dragging the entire show from city to city following Tina, making people’s wildest dreams come true," recalled Winfrey.
During an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2013, Turner spoke about the benefits of growing older.
"I've done it," Turner, who was 73 at the time of the interview, exclaimed. "...You can get emotional when you get to this stage and can say, 'Even when it's time to leave and go to another planet, I'm excited about that because I'm curious.'"
She clarified, "I'm not excited to die, but I don't regret it when it's time for me. I've done what I came here to do. Now is pleasure. I've got great friends, I have a great man in my life, now I have a great husband, and I'm happy."
The iconic singer last stepped out in public in November 2019 to attend the opening of the Broadway bio-musical, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City, with Winfrey by her side.
"This musical is my life, but it's like poison that turned into medicine," the singer told the crowd during her surprise curtain call appearance. "I can never be as happy as I am now."
On Wednesday, Winfrey posted a reflective tribute to the late singer.
"I started out as a fan of Tina Turner, then a full-on groupie, following her from show to show around the country, and then, eventually, we became real friends," she wrote on Instagram, pairing the caption with a series of photos of the two women together. "She is our forever goddess of rock 'n' roll who contained a magnitude of inner strength that grew throughout her life. She was a role model not only for me but for the world. She encouraged a part of me I didn’t know existed."
"Once she claimed her freedom from years of domestic abuse, her life became a clarion call for triumph," Winfrey continued. "I’m grateful for her courage, for showing us what victory looks like wearing Manolo’s and a leather miniskirt. She once shared with me that when her time came to leave this earth, she would not be afraid, but excited and curious. Because she had learned how to LIVE surrounded by her beloved husband, Erwin, and friends. I am a better woman, a better human, because her life touched mine. She was indeed simply the best."
Winfrey has described herself as Turner's groupie many times over the course of their friendship, once saying that watching her friend perform was a "spiritual" experience.
"Each electrifying swing of her miniskirt, every slide of her three-inch Manolos across the stage, sends a message: I am here. I have triumphed. I will not be broken," Winfrey said in a 2005 edition of O, the Oprah Winfrey magazine. "When I leave a Tina concert, I feel the same way I do after I’ve seen any great art: I want to be a better human being."
Turner released nine full-length studio albums in her lifetime, winning eight GRAMMYs, three GRAMMY Hall of Fame Awards and the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award. She headlined the Super Bowl halftime show, received a Kennedy Center Honor for her contribution to the culture and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice -- the first time in 1991 with Ike, and the second time in 2021, weeks ahead of her 82nd birthday.
After taking eight years away from the public eye, she then launched her final tour in 2008. The 50th Anniversary Tour began in October 2008 and went through May 2009 with a total of 84 sold-out dates across North America and Europe.
Turner's rep told ET that she died peacefully in her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland, after a long illness.
"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Tina Turner," read the statement. "With her music and her boundless passion for life, she enchanted millions of fans around the world and inspired the stars of tomorrow. Today we say goodbye to a dear friend who leaves us all her greatest work: her music. All our heartfelt compassion goes out to her family. Tina, we will miss you dearly."
Tina is survived by her adopted sons, Michael and Ike Jr. Her sons, Ronnie Turner and Craig Turner, died in December 2022 and July 2018, respectively.
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