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Conan O'Brien Recruits Will Ferrell, Beck for Final Episode "Free Bird"

January 23, 2010 12:00 AM ET

Conan O'Brien closed out his too-short tenure as host of The Tonight Show host by aseembling an all-star band for an amusing yet powerful rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird." Leading the charge was actor Will Ferrell, dressed more like a roadie than a Van Zant brother, who did an above-average karaoke performance of the Skynyrd classic. The real news, however, was who was backing Ferrell: Beck, ZZ Top's Billy GIbbons, Ben Harper, E Street drummer Max Weinberg and members of the Tonight Show band, and, most impressively, O'Brien himself.

During the song's ascending solos, O'Brien absolutely shredded on his Les Paul when his turn came up. Might we recommend Conan maybe start his own supergroup while he waits out these next seven months before he can be a late-night host again? The show's last laugh came courtesy of Ferrell, who whipped out his storied cowbell in an homage to his Saturday Night Live's Blue Oyster Cult skit.

Conan's final Tonight Show also featured appearances by Steve Carell and Tom Hanks, plus another very special musical guest. "When the news first broke that we might leaving this show, my next guest was the first one to call and offer his support. We are absolutely thrilled that he is here," Conan said while introducing Neil Young. With the stage's lights dimmed, Young perfectly summed up how Conan and his fans were feeling with a stunning performance of "Long May You Run." The Tonight Show was pre-taped, and as Rolling Stone reported in our live blog, Young also made a surprise appearance on the Hope For Haiti Now special, duetting with Dave Matthews on Hank Williams' "Alone and Forsaken."

Hopefully, we'll be seeing Coco again in seven months. Until then, watch Young's "Long May You Run" performance in the full episode above, and read Conan's touching final remarks in their entirety:

"Before we end this rodeo, a few things need to be said. There has been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can't say about NBC. To set the record straight, tonight I am allowed to say anything I want. And what I want to say is this: between my time at Saturday Night Live, the Late Night show, and my brief run here on The Tonight Show, I have worked with NBC for over 20 years. Yes, we have our differences right now and yes, we’re going to go our separate ways. But this company has been my home for most of my adult life. I am enormously proud of the work we have done together, and I want to thank NBC for making it all possible.

Walking away from The Tonight Show is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Making this choice has been enormously difficult. This is the best job in the world, I absolutely love doing it, and I have the best staff and crew in the history of the medium. But despite this sense of loss, I really feel this should be a happy moment. Every comedian dreams of hosting The Tonight Show and, for seven months, I got to. I did it my way, with people I love, and I do not regret a second. I've had more good fortune than anyone I know and if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-Eleven parking lot, we'll find a way to make it fun.

And finally, I have to say something to our fans. The massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming. The rallies, the signs, all the goofy, outrageous creativity on the Internet, and the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain to be in our audience, made a sad situation joyous and inspirational.

To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism — it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. As proof, let's make an amazing thing happen right now."

Related Stories:
Rob Sheffield on the Late-Night Bloodbath
Fallon's ?uestlove Sides With Conan O'Brien in Late-Night Battle

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Song Stories

“Love Is the Answer”

Utopia | 1977

The message of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" proved to be a universal and long-lasting one, which Utopia revisited 10 years later on this ballad. "From a lyrical standpoint, it's part of a whole class of songs that I write, which are about filial love," Todd Rundgren explained. "I'm not a Christian, but it's called Christian love, the love that people are supposed to naturally feel because we are all of the same species. That may be mythical, but it's still a subject." Though "Love Is the Answer" wasn't a hit, a cover version two years later by England Dan & John Ford Coley peaked at Number Ten on the Billboard singles chart.

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