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Music

Tom Waits’ brilliant final serenade of David Letterman

@TomTaylorFO

You never know what you’re going to get from Tom Waits, period. When he’s on a talkshow, that asset to his character is amplified. You could get the sort of jetlagged jaunty hatted chain-smoking that apparently influenced Heath Ledger’s joker, or you could get him pitching his innovative ‘new car smell’ antiperspirant. “I was in the car with my wife and she said, ‘Honey, is this a new car?’ and I said, ‘No, that’s my antiperspirant,” Waits joked with David Letterman on his final appearance, six days before the finale.

You could also get what Waits ultimately delivered as he put his whimsical conversation to one side for a minute and serenaded Letterman with a send-up that looked at his impending retirement. Like a lot of the best comedy, Waits’ transition from pithiness to profound pathos added meaning to the laughter and weight to the emotional anthem. As ever, his performance was also stunning personal. 

Naturally, this had his friend Mr Letterman a little teary-eyed. The song was promised to be a new one, but he hadn’t expected it to be in honour of himself until Waits declared, “This is for you Dave.” However, he wasn’t the only one who appeared emotional, even Waits seemed humbled as they shook hands. As a great supporter of artists, Waits wouldn’t be the only musician who was sad to see Letterman go either. 

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As Waits sang, “Take one last look at the place that you are leaving, take one last look.” It is not only a beautiful sentiment to offer someone as they get ready to move on, but the melodic ditty is a force in itself. The only drawback to Waits’ brilliance on this occasion is that the one-off song only has YouTube to call home. Let’s hope one day that he can place the song on an album, and we can bask in the beauty of it ad-free. 

He not only left him with his own beauteous anthem ‘Take One Last Look’, but he also gave him useful tips on retirement. For instance, rather than ‘new car antiperspirant, he recommended perspirant to Letterman so that he can give the impression that he is still working hard. “My feeling Dave is just be glad that you’re not in the tire business… because you can’t retire from the tire business, it sounds like you’re signing up for me time,” he also joked. 

You can check out Waits’ farewell serenade of Letterman below.