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Cher on Aging and Her Legendary Career: ‘I Don’t Like Getting Old… I Thought I’d Be Dead’

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Ray Tamarra/FilmMagic

Cher is turning back time on her career and legacy — one that she thought she wouldn’t be around to see anymore.

The legendary songstress, who turns 70 on Saturday, sat down for a revealing chat in Billboard‘s May 27 issue, touching on the ups and downs of her six-decades in the spotlight.

The interview comes days before the “Believe” singer receives the Billboard Music Awardsprestigious ICON Award — in honor of her 100 million albums sold worldwide and 22 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. (She’s also the first artist to have a No. 1 single on a Billboard chart in each decade — from the 1960s to the 2010s.)

While that success may make her an icon in Billboard‘s eyes, she’s not on board with the title of the trophy. “‘Icon’ is a stupid word,” she tells the magazine.

None of her achievements were effortless for Cher either. “Things just didn’t come easily to me,” she said. “I made lots of mistakes.”

“When I think about my life, it was a really good life,” she added. “It was hard. It was crazy. And it was laced with amazing and treacherous and sad [things], like everybody’s life.”

Cher in 1971
ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty

That includes her up and down relationship with the late Sonny Bono, who died in a 1998 skiing accident. The duo has a string of top 10 musical hits — including the no. 1 duet “I Got You Babe,” which became their signature song on their acclaimed 1971 variety show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.

Check out PEOPLE’s full 2017 Billboard Music Awards coverage.

While success came her way with Bono, Cher tells Billboard she was unhappy with Bono’s dictatorial control of her life and career — even feeling suicidal at one point.

“Maybe we should have never been husband and wife,” she said. “Sonny could be the best person you ever met — the funniest, the most adorable. Or not. He was like the little girl with the curl.”

Billboard

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After divorcing Bono, Cher reinvented her sound — first with ’70s hippie-pop jams like “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” then with disco tracks like “Take Me Home,” and eventually with ’80s power ballads like “If I Could Turn Back Time.” She also built a career for herself as a successful actress — winning an Oscar for her role in 1987’s Moonstruck

By the ’90s, though, Cher was all-but written off, musically. After the flop of her 1995 album It’s a Man’s World, she recorded a song that she hated — in a session she called “a nightmare.”

The tune? 1998’s “Believe.”

It’s gone on to become the biggest hit of Cher’s career — having spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and selling 20 million copies worldwide to date. It remains the most successful song of 1999.

On Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards, she’ll perform the track live for her first performance on a TV show in 15 years. She includes the song — and her collection of hits — in her Las Vegas residency show, Classic Cher, which began in February.

Despite the accolades and adorning fans, Cher maintained she herself isn’t a Cher devotee. “I’m not a Cher fan,” she said. “I just don’t think my aesthetic taste lies in her direction.”

That said, she makes no apologies about what’s come before. “I am who I am, it doesn’t make any difference what I’m supposed to be,” she says.

As for getting older, that’s something Cher isn’t enjoy. “I don’t like getting old,” she said. “I’m shocked that I can still run across the stage at my age. I thought I’d be dead!”