Elton John: Ryan White Turned My Life Around

Musician Headlines AIDS Benefit Concert

Elton John credits Indiana AIDS victim Ryan White with turning the musician's life around.

John was in Indianapolis Wednesday to headline a benefit event celebrating White's life and legacy.

The singer told The Associated Press that he has been sober 20 years -- almost exactly as long as it's been since White's death on April 8, 1990, at age 18.

In an interview with "Good Morning America's" Sam Champion, John said he respected White for his perseverance and what he showed him about himself.

"(Knowing him) taught me a lot about life. It taught me about compassion, dignity forgiveness," John said. "Everything that I didn't have in my life that I should have was there right in front of my eyes."

An event Wednesday night at Butler University's Clowes Hall featured John's performance, as well as appearances by other celebrities.

Proceeds will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation and an Indianapolis Children's Museum exhibit featuring White.

White was diagnosed with AIDS at age 13 after receiving a tainted transfusion of a blood-clotting agent. He forged friendships with celebrities including John, who performed at his funeral.

Ryan White

"Ryan had no bitterness. I never saw Ryan complain," John said. "This is someone who really was like a saint who died knowing that he was going to help others."

Ryan didn't surrender to the disease or the ridicule he endured. Instead, he went public, making appearances on talk shows, such as Phil Donahue.

"He wasn't going to sit home. He wanted to get out and tell people about this," Donahue said. "He did more … in those very difficult days to educate the nation better than any other single person."

Four months after White's death, Congress passed the Ryan White Care Act, which provides about $2 billion a year for AIDS treatment.