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Elton John Pays Tribute to Aretha Franklin, ‘The Greatest Soul Artist of All Time’

John remembers being moved to tears at Franklin’s final performance

Elton John praised Aretha Franklin and recalled her final performance last year.

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Elton John mourned the death of Aretha Franklin on Thursday in a reverent post on Instagram.

John is a lifelong fan of American soul music, and he collaborated with Franklin on 1989’s “Through the Storm,” an ode to persistence that became a Hot 100 hit. “The loss of Aretha Franklin is a blow for everybody who loves real music: music from the heart, the soul and the church,” John wrote.

Like many Franklin collaborators, John praised her singing — “her voice was unique” — but he also complimented her skills as an instrumentalist. “[Franklin’s] piano playing [was] underrated,” he asserted. “She was one of my favorite pianists.”

In addition, John wrote about his experience attending Franklin’s final performance, a fundraising event for his AIDS foundation in New York City. “She was obviously unwell, and I wasn’t sure she could perform,” John recalled. “But Aretha did, and she raised the roof. She sang and played magnificently, and we all wept. We were witnessing the greatest soul artist of all time.”

John is one of the many singers whose work Franklin covered and transformed with her remarkable vocal talents: The lead single from her 1972 album Young, Gifted and Black was a version of John’s “Border Song.” Franklin’s rendition featured backing vocals from the trusty Sweet Inspirations and organ work from the musical polymath Billy Preston. Franklin and John performed the song together in 1993.

“Through the Storm,” an uplifting single full of cheerful synthesizers and an arena-ready key change, became a chart hit. The track, written by Albert Hammond and Diane Warren, a master of big-room ballads, reached Number 16 on the Hot 100. After it fell off the radio, it lived on in karaoke bars.

“I adored [Franklin] and worshipped her talent,” John continued. “My condolences to all her family and friends. We shared the same birthday — and that meant so much to me. The whole world will miss her but will always rejoice in her remarkable legacy. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.”

View this post on Instagram

The loss of Aretha Franklin is a blow for everybody who loves real music: Music from the heart, the soul and the Church. Her voice was unique, her piano playing underrated – she was one of my favourite pianists. I was fortunate enough to spend time with her and witness her last performance – a benefit for the Elton John AIDS Foundation at St John The Divine Cathedral. She was obviously unwell, and I wasn’t sure she could perform. But Aretha did and she raised the roof. She sang and played magnificently, and we all wept. We were witnessing the greatest soul artist of all time. I adored her and worshipped her talent. God bless her. My condolences to all her family and friends. We shared the same birthday – and that meant so much to me. The whole world will miss her but will always rejoice in her remarkable legacy. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen. @arethasings #RIP #ArethaFranklin #QueenOfSoul @ejaf

A post shared by Elton John (@eltonjohn) on

In This Article: Aretha Franklin, Elton John, R&B

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