Jimmy Fallon returned to the “The Tonight Show” on Monday night for the first time since the death of his mother, Gloria. He had a special guest, Taylor Swift, whose surprise musical performance brought him to tears.
According to reports, the late-night host was by his mother’s side—along with his immediate family—when she passed away on November 4th. She had an undisclosed illness.
At the beginning of the show, he paid tribute to his late mother. He told the audience a beautiful childhood memory that ended up being echoed in Swift’s song.
“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,‘” recalled Fallon with tears in his eyes. “Last week, I was in the hospital, and I grabbed her hand and squeezed ‘I love you.’ I just knew we were in trouble.”
Later, Swift performed her new song “New Years Day,” which closes her new album “Reputation.” Nobody was prepared for how the sweet love song would impact Fallon.
Swift’s piano ballad is about never leaving a loved one’s side; unconditional love for a romantic partner. However, one lyric clearly resonated with Fallon as he mourns the loss of his mother.
“You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi,” Swift sings in one verse. “I can tell that it’s gonna be a long road.”
After her performance, the singer almost immediately ran to the late-night host, pulling him into a long embrace.
“Thank you, Taylor,” a visibly emotional Fallon said.
Later in the evening on Twitter, “Tonight Show” writer and producer Mike DiCenzo tweeted about the episode taping and Swift’s performance, which he says she agreed to do completely last-minute for Fallon.
“First, a quick word about Taylor Swift. She was not scheduled to do our show today. 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,’” he wrote. “She said yes with zero hesitation.”
DiCenzo said no one on the crew had listened to “New Years Day” beforehand and didn’t anticipate the connection, describing it as a “beautiful coincidence in a beautiful performance.”
“I think everyone in the audience started sobbing,” he wrote. “I could see Jimmy silhouetted at his desk dabbing his eyes with a tissue. We all lost it.”
“That hug between Jimmy and Taylor after the song was 100% real emotion,” he added. “Whatever you think of Taylor, she did something beautiful for Jimmy and our show today, and we’re forever grateful.”