Brandi Carlile honors Ryan White onstage Elton John’s Oscar party: ‘I don’t take standing here lightly’

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Brandi Carlile attends the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 27, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation)

Brandi Carlile attends the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 27, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation)

“I don’t take standing here lightly,” Brandi Carlile declared while performing at the 30th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party Sunday evening. Playing the star-studded gala, which raised $8.6 million for the Foundation’s work to end AIDS, was a full-circle moment for the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, as she explained to the crowd that she discovered Elton John’s music after she did a book report at age 11 about Ryan White — a hemophiliac boy who contracted HIV via a blood transfusion, and became an AIDS activist and dear friend of John’s, before dying of AIDS in 1990.

After joking that being onstage in the event’s pink-hued tent in the middle of West Hollywood Park felt like “playing a concert in an actual vagina,” Carlile got serious. “I had never heard Elton John’s music before. I was really only allowed to listen to country-&-western music. I lived, and still live, in a conservative town,” she said of her childhood. “And I did a book report [on the autobiography Ryan White: My Own Story]. I think it was in about 6th grade, on a young man who had passed away called Ryan White… . And it was my first education about anything like HIV or AIDS. It was a huge deal that shaped my worldview.

“At the end of this book, this young boy befriended a man named Elton John, whose music I’d never heard, and this Elton John guy played a song at Ryan’s funeral called ‘Skyline Pigeon.’ I went home and said to my parents that I had learned about HIV and AIDS and told them about the stigma and all the pain that people were facing. And I asked them if they would take me to the King County Library to check out a CD that I could check out and borrow and hear Elton sing for the first time.

“So to be 40 years old and be standing here all these years later, being given the truly solemn and unspeakably beautiful opportunity to support the Elton John AIDS Foundation, is something that I can’t really describe to you, because it shaped the way I walk through the world as an artist,” Carlile concluded. “I just want you to know that I don’t take standing here lightly.”

Ryan White and Elton John in the 1980s. (Photo: L. Cohen/WireImage)Ryan White and Elton John in the 1980s. (Photo: L. Cohen/WireImage)

Ryan White and Elton John in the 1980s. (Photo: L. Cohen/WireImage)

During his friendship with Ryan White, in an era when people with AIDS were misunderstood, ostracized, and vilified, Elton John famously showered the White family with kindness. He took them on a private tour of Disneyland, invited them to concerts, and even gave them money for a house down payment and a college fund for White’s sister. John was at White’s side when White died at age 18, and he also performed at White’s memorial. John honored Ryan White’s legacy by founding the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992.

While Elton John was not present at this year’s EJAF gala due to a conflicting concert date on his rescheduled Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, he did join via satellite from Nebraska, to treat the crowd to a special performance of “Your Song” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” John’s presence was also felt when Carlile and rising glam-pop star Jake Wesley Rogers dueted on John’s classic “Rocket Man,” accompanied by a band that included Shooter Jennings and Matt Chamberlain.

David Furnish is seen via video at the Elton John: Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert in Lincoln, NE during the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 27, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo: Jason Squires/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation)David Furnish is seen via video at the Elton John: Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert in Lincoln, NE during the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 27, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo: Jason Squires/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation)

David Furnish is seen via video at the Elton John: Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert in Lincoln, NE during the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 27, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo: Jason Squires/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation)

The 30th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party was hosted by Lady Gaga, Billy Porter, and Eric McCormack, along with EJAF chairman and Elton John’s husband, David Furnish. Among the attendees were Demi Lovato, Kevin Costner, Adam Lambert, Miguel, Zooey Deschanel, Amber Riley, Casey Affleck, Saweetie, Donatella Versace, Patricia and Rosanna Arquette, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Hale, Heidi Klum, Liam Payne, Beck, Tinashe, Raven-Symone, RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Violet Chachki and Gottmik, Sharon Osbourne, and Jane Seymour.

Sunday’s soiree marked the Foundation’s return to live events, after skipping 2021 due to coronavirus concerns. Since the gala’s inception in 1992, the John’s annual Oscar party has raise more than $86 million for its lifesaving programs.

Billy Porter, Eric McCormack, David Furnish, Chairman of EJAF, and Lady Gaga attend the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 27, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation )Billy Porter, Eric McCormack, David Furnish, Chairman of EJAF, and Lady Gaga attend the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 27, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation )

Billy Porter, Eric McCormack, David Furnish, Chairman of EJAF, and Lady Gaga attend the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 27, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation )

Lady Gaga, Brandi Carlile and Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John attend the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 27, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation)Lady Gaga, Brandi Carlile and Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John attend the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 27, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation)

Lady Gaga, Brandi Carlile and Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John attend the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 27, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation)

Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:

· Erasure’s Andy Bell recalls fan support after revealing HIV-positive status: ‘To me, that’s like winning an Oscar’

· Elton John’s warning during coronavirus benefit: ‘Not long ago, there was another infectious disease that was ignored’

· Salt-N-Pepa on the legacy of ‘Let’s Talk About AIDS’: ‘People were afraid to talk about it at that time’

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