I can’t compete with the literally hundreds of online tributes that are proliferating in advance of David Letterman’s final show this evening, except to say that I’ve been watching him since he debuted on NBC and now expect I will be getting to sleep even earlier, albeit less happily, after tonight’s show.
For the last several weeks, there has been a parade of frequent and favorite Letterman guests returning to the program for one last visit, but there’s one Letterman regular who won’t appear: Warren Zevon, the highly distinctive rock performer and writer who passed away in 2003.
Zevon appeared many times on both the NBC and CBS programs, famously making his last appearance in 2002, already diagnosed with the cancer that would take his life, as the sole program guest, the only person afforded that honor. It showed that Dave, who cultivated a curmudgeonly, ironic distance, was also fiercely loyal to those he cared about.
Though I’ve seen many of my musical idols live, I never got to see Zevon perform. So his appearances with Letterman were a particular gift, along with the Velcro Suit, the Stupid Pet Tricks, the Top Ten Lists, and so on, that everyone else is writing about this week. Below is a selection of Zevon’s appearances and performances. I miss Warren and, unless he surprises us by turning up on the air on some other program, I’ll miss Dave too, even though he’ll just be holed up in Connecticut or Montana somewhere, watching Harry grow up..