In a surprising coincidence, a lyric to Swift's song shared a deep connection to a gesture of love between Fallon and his mother, Gloria.
As they say in Hollywood, the show must go on, and so Jimmy Fallon returned to "The Tonight Show" stage on Monday night after a week off following the passing of his mother, Gloria Fallon. Calling her "the best audience," the comedian paid tribute to his mother.
"She was the one I was always trying to make laugh and she was such a fan of the show, and everything I did," Fallon said. Visibly moved, he shared a touching story about how they would say I love you while squeezing one another's hands three times, and how this helped him know they were "in trouble" last week with her.
After a moment to collect himself, he thanked his audience for the support they've given him and his family at this difficult time and promised, "We're going to continue to work really hard to bring some light and laughter into the world."
In a moment of kismet and on a whim to do something special for Fallon, Taylor Swift agreed to surprise Fallon's audience with a performance of "New Year's Day" from her new album, "Reputation." In the lyrics of the song, Swift sings, "You squeeze my hands three times in the back of the taxi."
According to Mike DiCenzo, a writer and producer on "The Tonight Show," no one had any idea that Fallon would be sharing that story about squeezing his mother's hand three times, nor did they make the connection to the lyrics until it happened.
"I could see Jimmy silhouetted at his desk dabbing his eyes with a tissue," DiCenzo tweeted about the moment Swift hit that line. "We all lost it. It was a beautiful coincidence in a beautiful performance."
The story about his mom squeezing his hand 3 times to say "I love you" when he was a kid, and then him squeezing her hand in the hospital - he hadn't told any of us that story... More on that in a second.— Mike DiCenzo (@mikedicenzo) November 14, 2017
She sang "New Year's Day." No one had heard it. Suddenly she sings the line, "Squeeze my hand 3 times in the back of the taxi." I nearly gasped. Tears. I think everyone in the audience started sobbing.— Mike DiCenzo (@mikedicenzo) November 14, 2017
That hug between Jimmy and Taylor after the song was 100% real emotion. Whatever you think of Taylor, she did something beautiful for Jimmy and our show today, and we're forever grateful.— Mike DiCenzo (@mikedicenzo) November 14, 2017
Questlove, head of The Roots (the show's house band), also chimed in on Twitter:
I’m just realizing Taylor didn’t readjust the song’s lyrics for tonight’s performance. But the narrative literally applies to the words Jimmy spoke of his mother. Wow. You can’t plan these things @taylorswift13 @FallonTonight— Questlove Gomez (@questlove) November 14, 2017