On Monday night in New York City, the latest Elton John AIDS Foundation benefit raised $3.9 million.
Among those in attendance were Chris Hardwick; Michael Stipe; Leonard Lauder; Gloria Steinem; Billie Jean King; Iman; Donna Karan; and Robert Kraft.
But Elton had Aretha Franklin on his mind.
He said he stood by the stage and sobbed at his foundation’s gala last year as the music legend made her final public performance.
“I was shocked to see how thin she was, and she just smiled her sweet smile at me and said, ‘I didn’t want to let you down,’” he remembered.
John said Franklin, who passed away in August, “gave us one of the greatest performances of our lifetime.”
The former Reg Dwight also acknowledged Tony Bennett, who was in the audience, as another inspirational singer.
“Artists like that don’t come around that often. They are dying out, and it’s such a shame because there’s no one to replace them,” the 71-year-old told the crowd.