The Deeper Meaning Behind the Final Song on 'Colbert Report'

Stephen Colbert closed the series with one of his favorite songs.

ByDan Good
December 19, 2014, 3:02 AM

— -- "The Colbert Report" ended its nine-season run Thursday on a personal note, with the series closing with one of host Stephen Colbert's favorite songs.

As the show's credits appeared, a 1998 song called "Holland, 1945" by Neutral Milk Hotel played.

According to an April column by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, “Holland, 1945” was dear to Colbert because of its “strange, sad poetry.” Colbert sent the song’s lyrics to Dowd:

But now we must pick up every piece

Colbert's personal childhood tragedy makes the song's message resonate. In 1974, when Colbert was 10 years old, his father, James Colbert, and two older brothers died in the crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Colbert has discussed the tragedy from time to time, including in a 2012 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Colbert said he didn’t properly interpret the tragedy until his late teens.

“I didn’t really grieve the loss until I was in college. And then I was in bad shape,” he told Winfrey. “I went into college at about 185 pounds. By the end of my freshman year I was 135. I was just green. ... I was so sad about it. I finally had time to, I suppose, be alone with the idea.”

The song, which was written by Jeff Mangum, comes from the band's album “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” While “Holland, 1945” was never a huge commercial smash, it has drawn critical acclaim, named by Pitchfork Media as the seventh-best song of the 1990s.

The song attracted new attention Thursday, with its melancholy lyrics and buzzy sound helping to close a chapter of television history.

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