Garth Brooks Sings Jay Leno Goodbye With “The Dance”

The ’90s were good to Garth Brooks. And to Jay Leno.

So it was very fitting — and very moving — that Brooks serenaded Leno with his 1990 hit “The Dance” on Thursday’s (Feb. 6) episode of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.

Leno started as the host of the show in 1992 and said during his farewell show that his time there was the greatest 22 years of his life. He fought back tears as he talked about turning over the reins to Jimmy Fallon, who will take over the show starting Feb. 17.

“I am the luckiest guy in the world,” Leno said. “This is tricky.”

“The Dance,” one of Brooks’ signature songs, was written by Tony Arata. It first appeared on Brooks’ self-titled debut album.

“To a lot of people, I guess ’The Dance’ is a love-gone-bad song. Which that it is. To me, it’s always been about life,” Brooks explains in the song’s touching music video. “If for some reason, God forbid, I should leave this world unexpectedly, I hope they play ’The Dance’ for me. I could’ve missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance. And I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

No matter how you interpret the song — is it about love, life, death or dreams? — for Leno it was the perfect way to say goodbye.

“And now, I’m glad I didn’t know/The way it all would end, the way it all would go/Our lives are better left to chance/I could have missed the pain/But I’d have had to miss the dance.”

After that three minutes of melancholy, Leno knew the audiences in the studio and at home needed a little bit of levity.

“Now that I brought the room down,” he said, asking Brooks to lighten it up. Brooks complied, closing out Leno’s very last show with “Friends in Low Places.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.