At the end of last night’s Late Show finale, the Foo Fighters played “Everlong” over a touching montage of old Letterman clips. The late-night legend and the rock band might seem like an unlikely pair, but they have a long, colorful history together. Ever since Letterman gave them their TV debut back in 1995, he and the Fighters of Foo, as he calls them, have been close friends.
Foo frontman Dave Grohl had loved Letterman since childhood. He recently told Entertainment Weekly that “the Late Night band in the ’80s was the best rock and roll band on television.” Grohl especially admired drummer Steve Jordan, whom he cites as a major influence. It’s only fitting, then, that the Foo Fighters had their first network TV appearance on Late Show in 1995 when they played “This Is a Call.”
Foo Fighters and Letterman’s relationship has grown more and more personal ever since: In early 2000, when Letterman had a quintuple bypass*, listening to “Everlong” was crucial to his recovery. For his first show back after the surgery, Letterman asked the band to come on the show and play that song.
“We dropped everything to do it,” Grohl told Entertainment Weekly. “I think we canceled a tour. It was an honor to be asked.” (Letterman confirmed this on last night’s show.)
For that 2000 performance, Letterman introduced them as “my favorite band playing my favorite song.”
“Everlong” isn’t the only Foo Fighters song Letterman cherishes: During the band’s week-long residency on the show last fall following their Sonic Highways release, Letterman shared another story, this time about his son.
“Years and years and years ago when I became a father, I recognized I was older than most fathers. And so did my son,” Letterman said. “And so I said I have to find something I can do with my son, and we can do it together.”
Letterman chose to bond with his son while skiing in Montana. And at the end of their trip, he got a souvenir video of him and 4-year-old Harry skiing down the mountain together. As adorable as Harry looked, something else struck Letterman, too—the background music was the Foo Fighters’ “Miracle.”
“This is the second song of theirs that will always have great, great meaning for me the rest of my life,” Letterman said as he introduced the band’s performance of the song in October.
Recalling the incident, Grohl told Entertainment Weekly the band had no idea until Letterman told the story onstage. “So we’re standing there listening, and just holding back tears.”
“I think we mean a lot to each other,” Grohl told Entertainment Weekly. “We’ve traded cigars, I’ve given him guitars and snare drums. We gave him a guitar once as a thank you, and he got really emotional with us. It clearly meant a lot to him. He’s just genuinely a warm, sweet person. … nobody has the heart that Letterman has. Not even close.”
Correction, May 21 2015: This post originally misstated that David Letterman needed a quintuple bypass following a heart attack. He actually had surgery following a routine check-up.