Entertainment Television

David Letterman's top 10 musical moments

By John Williams, Special to Postmedia Network

"That was fantastic," gushed David Letterman, moments after Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder delivered a powerful solo version of Better Man on the Late Show on Monday night.

Vedder paid tribute to the venerable 68-year-old host, who is signing off Wednesday after a successful 33-year run. The singer served as one of the last musical guests to grace the stage at the Ed Sullivan Theatre (Foo Fighters are the last one).

And for all the famous comedic moments during that period, there were also many outstanding musical performances over the last three decades – and like Ed Sullivan, many of the acts who appeared on the show used it as a springboard for success.

With that in mind, here are our top 10 memorable musical moments on CBS's Late Show, as well as NBC's Late Night.

10. Foo Fighters, February 21, 2000

The night Dave came back from his heart surgery, he enlisted the Foo Fighters as the band to give him a rockin' return. “My favourite band playing my favourite song,” he said emphatically, before the band ripped through their hit Everlong.

9. Weezer, August 4, 1995

Shoe-gazing Weezer frontman singer Rivers Cuomo, wearing pants four sizes too big for him, led his band (including founding member and bassist Matt Sharp) through a sizzling and energetic performance of their staple, Say It Ain't So.

8. Beastie Boys, June 14, 2004

The Beasties use the sidewalks of New York as the backdrop to the first half of their performance of Ch-Check It Out, eventually strutting into the studio to finish it off, and serenading Dave at his desk at the end.

7. Warren Zevon, October 30, 2002

Frequent guest Warren Zevon sat in with Paul Schaffer and his band for an entire show following his cancer diagnosis, with Dave begging him to sing Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner. It would be the last public performance for the singer – he died 11 months later.

6. Paul McCartney, July 15, 2009

The streets of New York were even more jammed than usual after Sir Paul played on top of the Ed Sullivan marquee, belting out an energetic version of the Beatles classic, Get Back.

5. Future Islands, March 3, 2014

In one of the greatest examples of the Letterman bump, this hypnotic performance by the North Carolina trio, highlighted by vocalist Samuel T. Herring's soulful voice and funky chicken dance moves, made them a viral sensation the next day, with the clip for Seasons (Waiting on You) garnering over 4 million views on YouTube. "How about that!" a thrilled Letterman said.

4. Sonny & Cher, November 13, 1987

Dave hosted one of the most famous musical reunions in TV history when Sonny & Cher pulled off an impromptu version of their hit I Got You Babe.

3. Bob Dylan, March 22, 1984

Musical chameleon Bob Dylan did what he does best – he broke the rules and did his own thing. This time, he unleashed a rockin' version of Jokerman, with Latino punkers The Plugz backing him up.

2. R.E.M., October 6, 1983

A bushy-haired Michael Stipe and co. made their network TV debut, belting out their hit at the time, Radio Free Europe, as well as So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry), which didn't have a title, since it was so new. A very shy Stipe refused to take part in an in-between song interview, leaving bassist Mike Mills and guitarist Peter Buck to do the chatting with Dave.

1. James Brown, July 12, 1982

In one of the greatest musical moments during Letterman's tenure, the Godfather of Soul rips through a three-song set, including Sex Machine, There Was a Time and I Got the Feelin’, with the studio audience being whipped into a frenzy with Brown's unreal dance moves.

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Twitter: @johnwillms

john.williams@sunmedia.ca


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