Three months after the world lost beloved singer Aretha Franklin, her friend Elton John has opened up about the Queen of Soul’s final public performance at his annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala in 2017. “I honestly didn’t know how she could possibly perform in the physical condition I saw her in,” Elton said of Aretha — who passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 76 this past August — during a speech at his 2018 AIDS event held in NYC on Monday, Nov. 5.

Aretha Franklin Elton John
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“And she did perform. She raised the roof. 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. You don’t see greatness like that very often, and we will never see it again,” the 71-year-old music icon continued.

Following Aretha’s death, Elton wrote a sweet tribute to the “I Say a Little Prayer” songstress via Twitter. “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 favorite pianists,” he began.

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“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,” Elton continued. “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. #RIPArethaFranklin,” he concluded his tribute to Aretha.