One of the most difficult experiences in life is losing a parent. They have spent a large proportion of their lives helping you to become the person you are today, and no matter how ambitious or ridiculous your dreams were, they supported you wholeheartedly.
Last week, The Tonight Show was sadly cancelled after its host, Jimmy Fallon, lost his mother Gloria on the November 4. But on Monday, the host returned to doing what he does best and opened the show with a heartfelt tribute to her.
“As some of you know, my mother, Gloria, passed away recently,” a tearful Fallon said at the beginning of the show. “She was the best audience. She was the one I was always trying to make laugh. She was such a fan of the show and everything I did.”
Fallon then took the opportunity to recount a childhood anecdote about how he and his mother expressed their love for each other.
“When we were little, my mom would walk us to the store, and we would hold hands. And she would squeeze my hand three times, and say ‘I love you,'” Fallon said. “Last week, I was in the hospital, and I grabbed her hand and squeezed ‘I love you.’ I just knew we were in trouble.”
The host then expressed his gratitude for his job and thanked his fans who had gotten in touch with his family to express their condolences. “We are going to continue to work really hard to bring some light and laughter into the world,” he concluded.
But what the host never expected was for one of the world’s biggest musical stars, Taylor Swift, to surprise him in a way he could have never imagined when she performed her newly-released song ‘New Year’s Day’ from her album Reputation.
Taylor’s appearance on the show was unplanned and so was her performance of ‘New Year’s Day’. The Tonight Show‘s producer Mike DiCenzo had called up Swift and asked her if she would perform on a whim.
“She was not scheduled to do our show today,” Mike said. “But we wanted something special for this first show back, so we asked her on a complete whim, since she had been in town doing SNL. She said yes with zero hesitation.”
‘New Year’s Day’ was a particularly poignant song choice because it is about refusing to leave a loved one’s side, and it took on a whole new meaning in the wake of Jimmy’s heartfelt tribute at the beginning of the show.
However, Taylor decided to make the song even more personal for Jimmy and referenced the anecdote the host had told the audience about squeezing his mother’s hand three times to say “I love you”.
Jimmy’s mother Gloria is pictured below in The Tonight Show audience:
“[Taylor] sang ‘New Year’s Day’. No one had heard it,” Mike said. “Suddenly she sings the line, ‘Squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi.’ I nearly gasped. Tears. I think everyone in the audience started sobbing.”
“I could see Jimmy silhouetted at his desk dabbing his eyes with a tissue,” Mike said. “We all lost it. It was a beautiful coincidence in a beautiful performance. ‘Hold on to your memories, they will hold on to you,’ Taylor sang.”
At the end of the performance, Jimmy and Taylor had a prolonged hug before he turned to the audience to have them praise the performance. The host was once again teary-eyed, overwhelmed by this beautiful and unexpected tribute.
You can watch Taylor’s beautiful and emotional performance of ‘New Year’s Day’ here:
We wish Jimmy Fallon and his family our sincere condolences during this difficult time.