Tom Waits’ Letterman Tribute

David Letterman retired from his 33-year-plus career hosting late night television last night. One of his best guests through the years was Tom Waits, who usually showed a flair for comedy that he did not often display anywhere else. (The sad fact is that not many television shows have requested Tom Waits to appear at all, much less bring whatever object or idea that had sparked some comic possibilities in his brain.)

Out of Letterman’s 6000-plus shows, Waits appeared on only 10, whether or not he had a new album or tour or play or film to advertise. Last week, he appeared for the last time and debuted a song that keeps lingering with me, “Take One Last Look.” He directed it as a tribute to Mr. Letterman and was accompanied by Larry Taylor (once of Canned Heat) on upright bass and Gabriel Donohue on piano accordion, with the horn section of the CBS Orchestra helping on the choruses.

On his website, Waits joked, “I don’t know when I will see Dave again. I guess from now on we’ll have to settle for bumping into each other at Pilates.”

“Take One Last Look”—Tom Waits
Let’s watch the sun come up in another town
Try our luck a little further down
Leave the cards on the table
Leave the bread on the plate
Put your hand on the gearshift
Put your foot off the brake

 
And take one last look
At the place that you are leaving
Take one last look
Oh take one last look
At the place that you are leaving
Take one last look

 
I beg for something that the wind can carry
There are all points of ways across the waiting prairie
This car looks like it could give us a good run
A choice to leave was a good one

 
And take one last look
At the place that you are leaving
Take one last look
Oh take one last look
At the place that you are leaving
Take one last look

 
Let’s look forward to the lights that are new,
The world is a ribbon of road for you
All towns have churches and tire stops
They put up speed limit signs and they hire cops
I love to see the wind in your hair
All we ever need we can get anywhere

 
And take one last look
At the place that you are leaving
Take one last look
Oh take one last look
At the place that you are leaving
Take one last look
Oh take one last look
Oh take one last look

* * * *
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14 comments

  1. Martha Kennedy · May 21, 2015

    Oooh. Beautiful song. Made my eyes sweat…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Aldrich · May 21, 2015

      You’ve had a bunch of last looks in recent years.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Martha Kennedy · May 21, 2015

        That’s why my eyes sweat. My Chinese brother (in China) didn’t remember the word for “tears” in English so one day he told me about something and said it made his eyes sweat.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. rogershipp · May 21, 2015

    I napped early so that I could watch the goodbye on Letterman. He was not even a total favorite of mine… but he was a standard.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John Lundemo · May 21, 2015

    Waits is the man! He’s a good actor Loved him in “Mystery Men” 🙂 Thank
    s Mark

    Liked by 1 person

  4. LRose · May 21, 2015

    Swordfish Trombone. “He hated that dog.”
    I was home earlier this winter with the flu-from-hell, watching whatever movies my cable service offered, and there was TW in “Interview with a Vampire.” Oh…TW! Didn’t know Letterman was a “Oh…TW!” guy as well. Crap. Now I’m going to have to watch old episodes in a new light.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · May 21, 2015

      “Rain Dogs” is the album what got me.

      February 1986: “What were your parents like, Tom?” Letterman asks.

      “My father was an exhaust manifold and my mother was a tree.” Deadpan. The two enjoyed making fun of typical talk-show empty-isms.

      He performs “Tango Till They’re Sore” and sends the show off into the night with “Time”:

      I love this clip; hope you will, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • LRose · May 22, 2015

        Thanks for sharing this! I really enjoyed it. Both songs are great examples of who he is as a songwriter. I love how he starts describing his play as being about an American psychopath and finishes by saying he’s a typical American dreamer.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. angloswiss · May 22, 2015

    Tom Waits one of my favourites. I possess a few of his records. I did not know he also played guitar. Lovely song and thanks for posting it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. LindaK · May 22, 2015

    Truly a special send-off for Letterman. I only know TW’s music from his part in the duet with Bonnie Raitt on “Angels from Montgomery.” The song has remained a top favorite of mine for the past 20+ years. Compared to that performance, Waits’ voice on this sounds like it’s barely hanging on. But it’s the soul that matters, and this was one touching, soulful performance. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · May 24, 2015

      Thanks, Linda! Many writers have dusted off their theasauri to work on descriptions of Waits’ voice through the years.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Damien Riley · May 23, 2015

    Missed the pirate voice 🙂 I used to watch Letterman every night, another life ago. I’m lucky to make it past 9 these days. Thanks for the update.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: ‘Take One Last Look’ | The Gad About Town

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