Well, Nation, that’s it. Stephen Colbert has moved on from The Colbert Report, after nine brilliant years. He sent it off in his own singular style, though, and — despite Kendrick Lamar‘s appearance earlier this week as the show’s final, proper musical guest — that was sure to involve some tunes.
The final credits aren’t online, but as Slate points out, the backing music wasn’t Colbert‘s usual theme. Rather, it was Neutral Milk Hotel‘s “Holland, 1945,” off of the Athens, Georgia band’s landmark 1998 Merge Records album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Colbert once told The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd he cherished the song for its “strange, sad poetry,” and passed along the lyrics.
The songs’ lyrics gain resonance in the context of Colbert’s personal history. In 1974, when he was 10, his father and two older brothers died in a plane crash in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dowd singles out these lines from “Holland, 1945″: “But now we must pick up every piece / Of the life we used to love / Just to keep ourselves / At least enough to carry on / And here’s where your mother sleeps / And here is the room where your brothers were born / Indentions in the sheets / Where their bodies once moved but don’t move anymore.”
If this is a hint of the “real” Colbert, we’re going to get to see when he takes over from David Letterman on CBS’s Late Show in 2015, I’m all for it. But I don’t think I have enough tissues. In the meantime, of course, there was plenty of over-the-top spectacle on last night’s Colbert finale, including a singalong to Vera Lynn’s 1939 “We’ll Meet Again” that brought out a massive of array of former guests on the show. Among the cameos were Michael Stipe, Pussy Riot, Jeff Tweedy, Willie Nelson, Cyndi Lauper, Randy Newman, the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, Toby Keith, the Cars’ Ric Ocasek, Peter Frampton and Barry Manilow.
Listen to “Holland, 1945″ below, and scroll down for the “We’ll Meet Again” singalong, plus a full list of cameos.
And here’s an unofficial “We’ll Meet Again” guest list, via Forbes.com:
Jon Stewart, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, James Franco, Katie Couric, Michael Stipe, J.J. Abrams, Mandy Patinkin, Tom Brokaw, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jeff Daniels, Sam Waterston, Andrew Sullivan, Ken Burns, Charlie Rose, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Barry Manilow, Bill de Blasio, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Patrick Stewart, Andy Cohen, Christiane Amanpour, Arianna Huffington, David Remnick, Peter Frampton, Alan Alda, Cory Booker, Eliot Spitzer, Peter Jackson, Paul Krugman, Richard Clarke, Norm Ornstein, Lesley Stahl, Leon Wieseltier, Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Steinem, George Lucas, Henry Kissinger, Bob Costas, Tim Meadows and Jimmy Wales.
Plus: Bryan Cranston, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Toby Keith, David Gregory, Ric Ocasek, Stone Phillips, Arianna Huffington, Alexi Lalas, Elijah Wood, Mike Huckabee, Nate Silver, Bo Dietl, Dan Savage, Chuck Schumer, Ray Odierno, Samantha Power, Thomas Friedman, Matt Taibbi, Claire McCaskill, Mark Cuban, members of Pussy Riot, Yo Yo Ma, John Ratzenberger, George Saunders, Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, Jonathan Alter, Keith Olbermann, Shane Smith, Bradley Whitford, Jake Tapper, Jeffrey Toobin, Grover Norquist, Vince Gilligan, Smaug the dragon, an astronaut on a treadmill in space, Segway inventor Dean Kamen, Alex Trebek, Santa Claus, Abraham Lincoln and a tweeting Bill Clinton.