Monday night’s emotional performance of “New Year’s Day” by Taylor Swift on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon was a tear-jerker for more than one reason.
The singer was not scheduled to appear on the episode, but given that it was Fallon’s first night back on the job following the passing of his mother Gloria, Tonight Show writer/producer Mike DiCenzo explained, “We wanted something special for this first show back, so we asked her on a complete whim, since she had been in town doing [Saturday Night Live]. She said yes with zero hesitation.”
Of course, after Fallon’s emotional description of a memory with his mother squeezing his hand three times to say “I love you,” it was already hard to not be in tears.
Following the show, DiCenzo tweeted a lengthy thread depicting all the small details that went into creating the episode, emphasizing key pieces that may have slipped past the viewers.
DiCenzo praised Fallon’s courage for returning to the show with such poise, and pointed out the emotion shared by the crew, as Fallon’s mother was the show’s biggest fan. Aside from the spoken tribute, the program was edited in order to allow for more visual time of Fallon high-fiving the crowd — Gloria’s favorite part of the show.
In a moment seemingly made for the movies, Swift sang a line that matched Fallon’s prior story: “You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi.” DiCenzo, along with the rest of the crew, had yet to hear the track, since it had been released only a few days prior on Friday. “I nearly gasped. Tears. I think everyone in the audience started sobbing,” he explained. “I could see Jimmy silhouetted at his desk dabbing his eyes with a tissue. We all lost it. It was a beautiful coincidence in a beautiful performance.”
Get every detail from the emotional thread (and try not to tear up) below.
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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