Elton John says he stood by the stage and sobbed as Aretha Franklin gave her final public performance at his AIDS foundation gala last year.
On the red carpet this time around in New York, John called her show "one of the greatest performances of our lifetime." Franklin died in August at age 76.
This year's gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation raised US$3.9 million (HK$30.3 million) .
While the foundation has been a leader in the fight against AIDS, the theme at a grand Midtown ballroom was civility.
John said from the podium that he's worried about America because "we live in perilous times." With that the Grammy-winning superstar called on Americans to help everyone feel like they belong.