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Taylor Swift's surprise 'Tonight Show' performance is emotional tribute to Jimmy Fallon's mom
When "The Tonight Show" asked Taylor Swift last minute to perform on the show, they had no idea how fitting her lyrics would be for an emotional tribute to Jimmy Fallon's mother. - photo by Mary Dalrymple
NEW YORK CITY When "The Tonight Show" producers asked Taylor Swift to perform on the show, no one knew just how emotional, and fitting, her performance would be.

Monday night "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" aired its first episode back after a weeklong hiatus due to the death of host Jimmy Fallon's mother. To start off the show, Fallon shared a tribute to his mother, Gloria.

"She was the best audience. She was the one I was always trying to make laugh," Fallon said before sharing a childhood story.

"When we were little, my mom would walk us to the store, me and my sister, and we would hold hands," Fallon said while holding back tears. "She would squeeze my hand three times and say, 'I love you,' and I would squeeze back, 'I love you too.'"

Fallon went on to share how he squeezed his mother's hand again to say "I love you" while visiting her in the hospital just before she died.

"I knew we were in trouble," he said.

Fallon finished his emotional and sweet tribute by thanking his audience and saying he would work hard to bring more light and laughter into the world.

"Mom, I'll never stop trying to make you laugh. I love you," he said while squeezing his hand in the air three times before moving on to the show's other segments.

Later in the night's episode, an unexpected tribute from musical guest Taylor Swift got the crowd emotional once again.

Swift was on the show to perform the song "New Year's Day" from her new album "Reputation." When she sang the lyrics to the song's second verse, everyone realized just how fitting the song was for the occasion.

"You squeezed my hand three times in the back of the taxi, I can tell that it's gonna be a long road," Swift sang before finishing the rest of the song and immediately embracing Fallon in a heartfelt hug.

After the show ended, Mike DiCenzo, one of the show's writers and producers, shared more on Twitter about just how special the night had been.

DiCenzo shared how hard the night was for Fallon and how he hadn't previously told anyone the story about his mom and squeezing her hand three times.

But Fallon did the show anyway, and that is "a testament to how strong he is," DiCenzo tweeted.

Then DiCenzo mentioned Taylor Swift. It turns out, Swift had not been scheduled to perform, but when the show reached out and told her they were trying to make the night extra special for Fallon, she immediately agreed.

None of the producers had previously heard the song "New Year's Day," so they also did not know about the lyrical connection to Fallon's story.

"Tears," DiCenzo said. "I think everyone in the audience started sobbing."

DiCenzo then shared how the hug between Fallon and Swift was "100% real emotion."

"Whatever you think of Taylor, she did something beautiful for Jimmy and our show today, and we're forever grateful," he tweeted.
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