Elton John was in tears when he watched Aretha Franklin perform at his Elton John AIDS Foundation last year (17), because he had a feeling he'd be watching her sing for the last time.

The Rocket Man staged the 2018 foundation gala in New York City on Monday night (05Nov18), and recalled the Queen of Soul's gig, revealing he and Sheryl Crow were sobbing.

"She was so sick," Elton tells InStyle. "We went to see her before the show and she was so frail. She was supposed to do it the year before, and I said, 'Are you OK?' and she said, 'I can’t let you down again'."

And Aretha was amazing: "She was, I think, really inspired by the situation - that it was in a cathedral (St. John the Divine). She came onstage and she just got better and better and better as the evening wore on.

"I was with Sheryl Crow and Rosanne Cash, and we were crying, because I didn’t think she’d ever perform again - she was that frail. But boy, did she perform, and what an honour. It was one of the greatest nights of my life."

Franklin lost her battle with cancer in August, and Elton was among the first to pay his respects, tweeting: "The loss of @ArethaFranklin 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."

Cancer survivor Crow performed at this year's gala.