Elton John: Wannabe Stars Have to Pay Their Dues

A word of advice from Elton John (search) to up-and-coming musicians: Pay your dues.

"Bands today have to learn their craft by putting the hard work in that we did when we were young performers," said John, 57, who was in Shanghai Saturday for the first China shows of his four-decade-old career.

"We didn't just make a video, then go out on the road. We were on the road before we had gotten a record contract," said the singer-pianist, who started out in the early 1960s toiling on the British pub circuit with the soul act Bluesology.

John performed two concerts Sunday.

After a career that has spanned styles from the bouncy rock 'n' roll of "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" to the soundtrack for Disney's "The Lion King," (search) John said he listens to new artists for a dose of "energy, rawness and instinctiveness."

"I get my inspiration from young bands, young songwriters," he said.

Asked with whom he would most like to work, John named Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, his collaborator on 2001's "Songs From the West Coast."

"The greatest songwriter on the planet at the moment is Rufus Wainwright," he said.

John also spoke of taping a duet with Ray Charles of John's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word," the last recording by Charles before his death in June.

"It's etched on my memory as one of the saddest and most uplifting days in my life," he said.