The night before Election Day, Elton John hosted his annual fall gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation where he remembered Aretha Franklin and expressed concern over the future of America. “I worry about the future of this country,” the singer said. John spoke about moving from England to America in the Seventies and the incredible love and support he received upon his arrival. He urged people to tap into that kindness, communicate more and, most importantly, show each other respect.
“If you don’t show another human respect, then that person is going to be ostracized, he’s going to be angry, he’s going to lash out,” John said. “And I feel that in this country, sooner or later, people are going to lash out because they’re getting sick and tired of it – and I don’t want that to happen.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, John spoke about the previous gala held at Manhattan’s Gothic Cathedral of St. John and notably featured Aretha Franklin’s final performance. John remembered Franklin alongside Roseanne Cash and said they were both sobbing. “You don’t see greatness like that very often, and we will never see it again,” John said.
John said she looked unwell. “I honestly didn’t know how she could possibly perform in the physical condition I saw her in,” John said. “And she did perform. She raised the roof. And I think it’s because she was inspired by being in the cathedral. She went to church. She went back to where she came from and she raised the roof, and she sang, and she played, and she made us all weep. She gave us the performance of a lifetime.”
The Elton John AIDS Foundation raised $3.9 million, which will benefit various organizations working to end HIV/AIDS, especially in underrepresented communities. A portion of the funds were raised via auction, with an original painting by Tony Bennett selling for nearly $200,000 and a photo from Franklin’s final performance going for $100,000. Sheryl Crow closed out the gala with a 45-minute set with hits like “If It Makes You Happy” and “Everyday Is a Winding Road.”