It’s a rare honour to have a song written about you. The amount of cultural cache, personal impact, and wider recognition that kind of ode requires is a precious commodity reserved mostly for bygone legends and figures parted too soon.
Even rarer, however, is to actually witness the song that is written in your honour live in person. To be a living legend is a unique status indeed, but that’s exactly what David Letterman became while embarking on his final run of late night shows in 2015. For over 30 years, Letterman had brought his singular brand of humour to the homes of America, exposing a wide swath of future comedy nerds to concepts like sarcasm, surrealism, and the delicate balance between being acting dumb and staying smart.
It wasn’t hard to see his influence in the wider world of entertainment, but even Letterman appeared surprised to see his farewell salutes extended to the world of music. Previous guests from all across the sonic spectrum made returns to the programme to give Letterman their good wishes, but legendary singer-songwriter Tom Waits took his appearance a step further by dedicating a brand new song, ‘Take One Last Look’, to the man himself.
Waits first appeared with Letterman on Late Night with David Letterman back in 1983. The two shared a strange offbeat energy, and Waits had a relatively open invitation to return and perform whenever he wanted. Waits made ten appearances on Letterman’s shows over the course of three decades, and on the final broadcast of his late night career, Letterman welcomed Waits for one more song.
Hearing Waits’ legendarily weathered voice eject out lines like, “This car looks like it could give us a good run / A choice to leave was a good one” becomes stirringly poignant as Letterman reaches the end of his career. Even though he’s committed to a bit in which he is handcuffed to George Clooney, Letterman can’t help but be truly moved by Waits tribute. Waits’ blend of folk and old time Americana might have seemed a bit out of place in 2015, but it was the perfect medium to give his friend one final goodbye as he was walking out the door.
Check out Waits singing ‘Take One Last Look’ down below.