Sir Elton John was inspired to get sober after his young friend died from AIDS-related pneumonia.

Ryan White became a national poster child for HIV/AIDS in the United States after failing to be re-admitted to school when he was diagnosed with AIDS following a blood transfusion and after he passed away in 1990 at the age of just 18, Elton, now 72, decided to enter rehab for his addiction problems.

Speaking to NBC's Harry Smith, on the 'Today' show, Elton said: ''I think the catalyst was Ryan White's funeral and seeing what Ryan went through.

''When he died, being there in Indianapolis and coming back to the hotel and complaining about the wallpaper, the décor in the room. [I'm] thinking, 'You are the most ungrateful little b*****d. You complain about everything. This boy has never complained about contracting HIV and AIDS from a blood transfusion. He's never complained, he's only encouraged people to get tested. You are a piece of s**t.' And that's what I felt about myself.''

Elton then checked himself into Chicago's Parkside Lutheran Hospital on July 29, 1990 and celebrated 29 years of sobriety this year and he knows how lucky he is.

The star - who has sons Zachary, eight, and Elijah, six, with husband David Furnish - said: ''I could have been one of them. Of course, I could have become HIV positive; I was very lucky. I was blessed and I always thought it was for the reason, when I got sober, that I would give something back.''