David Letterman is to television as Bob Dylan is to music. In the American pop culture lexicon, both men’s contributions are beyond reproach. It’s only fitting then that Dylan served as the final announced musical guest under Letterman’s tenure as host of CBS’s Late Show.
Incredibly, tonight’s appearance marked Dylan’s return to the show for the first time since 1993. While he famously performed as the Plugz on Letterman’s NBC Late Night show, he only stopped by the Ed Sullivan Theatre once during his stint as the Late Show host. In 1993, he kicked off the inaugural season of the Late Show with a performance of “Forever Young”.
Making up for lost time, Dylan honored Letterman with an emotional rendition of “The Night We Called It a Day”, from his latest studio album, Shadows in the Night.
Dylan’s performance wasn’t the only musical moment from last night’s episode. Bill Murray, covered in cake and drunk off vodka, ran onto a Manhattan street and conjured up a group of passersby to join him in singing a special version of “Give Peace a Chance”. Hoping to encourage Letterman to stay for another 30 years, Murray’s reworked lyrics included “more Worldwide Pants,” a reference to Letterman’s production company.
The Late Show with David Letterman concludes Wednesday with an episode promising “an hour filled with surprises.” Read our commemorative guide, featuring an essay by Ryan Bray, our picks for Dave’s Top 10 Musical Performances, and a list of the 33 essential memories over his 33 years of hosting late night television.