And so, ater 33 years of late night shows, David Letterman retires. As with his idol Johnny Carson, Dave leaves behind a legacy. For many, it's the end of a lifestyle. Many people shrugged about growing old with Johnny and that there wasn't a comfortable talk show anymore. They had to find something else to do at 11:30. Now, quite a few are feeling the same way...that the Jimmies (Fallon and Kimmel) are not a good alternative. Times and tastes have changed. Or in a phrase the late Robin Williams popularized, "Reality, what a concept." Rarely do things improve and the old give way to something better. One simply adapts to the loss and moves on.
Letterman's 33 years have included way too many highlights and important achievements to discuss here. Since this is a music blog, I could confine the comments to the singers and musicians who were such a part of the show. Even that would take too much space. All you have to do is go to Dave's website, or YouTube and you'll find many highlights. It should be mentioned, though, that Dave had pretty good taste, and gave valuable exposure to less-than-commmercial artists, ranging from Warren Zevon to Allison Moorer.
Aside from guests (special mention to Darlene Love's annual Christmas song) there was Paul Shafer's ritual impression of Cher singing "O Holy Night," Paul's assortment of "stings" and kooky music introductions, Dave's own occasional weird forays into singing ("Midnight…and the kitties are sleeping…") and that familiar yet un-hummable theme song. How about all the people who never listened to Miles Davis...but DID, because "Milestones" became Biff Henderson's "walk-on theme"?
I had limited interactions with Dave and the show. I did talk to him at a party once, and I was behind the scenes in the green room several times. I chaperoned friends who were actually on the show, and came to the show as a convenient meeting place for performers doing the show. I might do a quick photo shoot before or after they went on Dave's show, or even an interview. When I was with one of the top photo agencies, I was glad to get one of my photos of Dave into a national news weekly. Nice credit, nice paycheck. And I was at a few pretty historic telecasts, both at NBC, CBS and Radio City Music Hall. As the song goes, "they can't take that away from me."
In the last weeks, several stars gave Dave a special musical salute, including Martin Short and Nathan Lane. Both worked so hard over the years on song parodies that would be something special for their friend and host. One of the last, and certainly the most peculiar, came from Adam Sandler. Nervous, and singing low, not quite sure if every line was going to get the much-needed laugh from Dave himself, Sandler gained confidence and finished strong with lines that mixed tribute with tweaks. It was…not too shabby.
Adam Sandler David Letterman