Elton John

Elton John remembers Aretha Franklin at his annual AIDS gala

Elton John said he stood by the stage and sobbed at his foundation's gala last year as Aretha Franklin 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 told The Associated Press on the red carpet Monday night at this year's party.

John said Franklin "gave us one of the greatest performances of our lifetime." She died in August at age 76.

From the podium, John 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...