Taylor Swift made a surprise appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” last night, Nov. 13, which marked Fallon’s first night back to the show following the passing of his mother, Gloria, on Nov. 4. Swift performed her stirring ballad, “New Year’s Day,” which followed Fallon’s moving opening statement about his mother. No one realized how the lyrical significance of the song would be connected to Fallon’s emotional tribute to his mom and Swift ultimately (and unwittingly) created an unforgettable moment for the Emmy-winning talk show host and the show itself.
In his speech, Fallon described how his mother used to hold he and his sister’s hands walking to the store and she would squeeze his hand three times and say, “I love you.” He would squeeze back four times, “I love you too.” He fought to keep from breaking down as he relayed how he grabbed her hand while at her side in the hospital and squeezed it three times, “I love you” and that’s when he “knew we were in trouble.”
Swift immediately accepted "The Tonight Show's" impromptu invitation to appear on the show as a means of welcoming Jimmy Fallon back. The vivid and intimate “New Year’s Day” lyrics perfectly fit Fallon’s heartfelt story as she sang, “You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi/I can tell it’s gonna be a long road/ I’ll be there if you’re the toast of the town, babe / Or if you strike out and you’re crawling home.”
The breathtaking irony of the words was not lost on “Tonight Show” producer Mike DiCenzo, who took to Twitter to explain what the unplanned significance of Swift’s spontaneous performance meant in that moment. He said, “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. 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.”
Swift and Fallon shared an extended hug after her performance and DiCenzo also spoke of it in his Twitter stream, thanking the “Gorgeous” singer. He said, “That hug between Jimmy and Taylor after the song was 100% real emotion. Whatever you think of Taylor, she did something beautiful for Jimmy and our show today, and we’re forever grateful.”
Taylor Swift is a prolific, award-winning songwriter whose intimate and insightful lyrics have resonated with fans all over the world for more than a decade. This deeply emotional moment sparked by Swift’s “New Year’s Day” performance demonstrates a universal truth about how music connects people and impacts hearts. The Roots drummer Questlove recognized the priceless, rare moment as he tweeted, “I’m just realizing Taylor didn’t readjust the song’s lyrics for tonight’s performance. But the narrative literally applies to the words Jimmy spoke of his mother. Wow. You can’t plan these things @taylorswift13 @FallonTonight.”
Taylor Swift’s impromptu “Tonight Show” performance followed her triumphant SNL return on Nov. 11. Her critically-acclaimed sixth studio album, reputation, is available for purchase. Click here to read an AXS review of the album. Swift recently announced the first wave of 2018 reputation tour dates. Click here for a list of AXS-ticketed shows.
She sang "New Year's Day." No one had heard it. Suddenly she sings the line, "Squeeze my hand 3 times in the back of the taxi." I nearly gasped. Tears. I think everyone in the audience started sobbing.— Mike DiCenzo (@mikedicenzo) November 14, 2017
I’m just realizing Taylor didn’t readjust the song’s lyrics for tonight’s performance. But the narrative literally applies to the words Jimmy spoke of his mother. Wow. You can’t plan these things @taylorswift13 @FallonTonight— Questlove Gomez (@questlove) November 14, 2017