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Music / Tom Jones

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It's not unusual...

"Music is great. It all depends on what mood you're in... what you want to listen to. If it's party time, you listen to, you know, party music. If you want to dance with somebody. But then again, if it's a slow dance, you need something slow. It all depends on the mood."
Sir Tom Jones, OBE

The man... the myth... the legend. Tom Jones is one of the biggest, most influential singers and musicians ever to come out of the British music scene. You've felt his influence, even if you never realized just how huge he really was.

Since the 1960s, Sir Thomas John Woodward, OBE (born 7 June 1940 in Pontypridd, South Wales), better known by his stage name "Tom Jones" ...or these days, "Sir Tom Jones"... is a Welsh singer. He became one of the most popular vocalists to emerge from the British Invasion. He is a true musical polymath, having recorded songs in nearly every genre of popular music (pop, rock, R&B, punk, show tunes, country, club music, techno, soul, gospel, blues, and rap). Jones has sold over 100 million records, and has almost forty Top 40 hits to his name, including "It's Not Unusual", "What's New Pussycat", "Delilah", "The Green Grass of Home", "Kiss" (a cover of the Prince classic that actually outsold the original), "Burning Love" (a cover of the Elvis Presley classic), "Sex Bomb", and the song that has become his signature, "She's a Lady".

Jones has a powerful, bluesy baritone voice that is reminiscent of Elvis Presley (one of Jones' personal friends, as it turns out). His voice is versatile enough, however, to handle pretty much any type of music he decides to apply it to. He's a legendary Pornomancer whose singing would regularly cause women to throw articles of clothing at him while he was onstage.

Tom Jones has contributed to the soundtracks of over 130 different productions (including television, films, plays, cartoons, and even video games), and has been known to occasionally act (usually either as himself or in bit parts). He has hosted three variety series. The first, This Is Tom Jones (1969–71), was jointly produced by ATV and ITC. ATV broadcast it in the UK, with ITC exporting it to the States, where it aired on ABC. The second, Tom Jones (1980–81), was produced in Canada for North American broadcast syndication and exported to the BBC, where it was broadcast from 1980 to 1982 as The Tom Jones Show. Finally, in 1992, he hosted Tom Jones: The Right Time, which had a (planned) six-episode run on ITV and was exported to the States for VH1. Since 2012, when not out there rocking the stage at age 80 (before COVID-19, he still played about a hundred shows a year), he's been a coach on the British version of The Voice (he has taken two contestants to the championship—Leanne Mitchell in the first season, and Ruti Olajugbagbe in the seventh). Jones and the producers had differences that led to his departure after the fourth series (season) in 2015; fans reacted very negatively to his departure, and he was brought back after a one-season absence. The other coaches apparently consider him to be "the man to beat" on the show because of his vast experience and know-how. And even in his eighties, he apparently still has it, with his 2021 cover album Surrounded by Time debuting at #1 on the UK album charts, making him the oldest male artist to have a UK #1 album, and drawing substantial critical praise. That album also made the Billboard 200 in the States.

Over the course of his career, he's received four Grammies, an MTV Video Music Award, two Brit Awards, and was knighted (the Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II for "services to music".

Despite his own admitted "horde of infidelities" (including one that resulted in an illegitimate son, whom he barely acknowledges), Jones stayed married to the same woman, Melinda, from 1957 until her death in 2016. The couple has one son, Mark, and carefully do not mention Tom's other son. These days Tom splits his time between Los Angeles and London.

Tom Jones's songs and his music provide examples of the following tropes:

  • Animated Music Video: The video for "Give A Little Love" pays homage to Fleischer Studios cartoons, with Tom dancing with an Expy of Betty Boop.
  • As Himself: Most of his acting gigs have been this.
  • Berserk Button: If you ever get a chance to talk to him, never bring up his other son.
  • Carpet of Virility: Oh yeah.
  • Celebrity Survivor: Two of the survivors at the end of Mars Attacks! are a former World Heavyweight Champion boxer... and Tom Jones. The latter case is particularly ironic since up to that point the film had gruesomely killed off its entire All-Star Cast. invoked
  • Character Signature Song: In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Carlton adores dancing to "It's Not Unusual."
  • Character Title: "Delilah."
  • Compelling Voice: The man can still cause women to throw undergarments at him just by singing. Art of Noise actually singled this trope out as the reason for collaborating with him on a Cover Version of Prince's "Kiss": they caught him performing the song live one day, and were captivated by the radical difference between Prince's willowy falsetto vocals on his version and Jones' steely baritone.
  • Cover Version:
    • Two of his biggest hits, "Kiss" (a collaboration with Art of Noise) and "Burning Love" were covers of the Prince and Elvis Presley songs, respectively. The Jones/Art of Noise version of "Kiss" actually outsold Prince's original worldwide.
    • The album Reload is (ergo a Cover Album), with the exception of "Sex Bomb", entirely cover versions sung as duets with other artists/groups, such as the cover of Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House" with The Cardigans.
    • Surrounded by Time is an even more straight example of a cover album, with every track being a cover. (Except the Japanese version, which includes a new version of "It's Not Unusual" [which he had been the first to record back in late 1964] as a bonus track.)
  • A Deadly Affair: "Delilah" is from the perspective of the man being (supposedly) cheated on as he takes his murderous revenge.
  • Driven to Suicide: In "Laura" the singer pleads:
    And if there's time before I pull this trigger
    Tell me what he's got that I ain't got
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: Jones proves he could quite literally shatter glass with just his voice on one episode of the Dinah Shore Show. He has also been known to break microphones with the sheer power of his voice.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: In the seventies and eighties, he was famous for his tight, black leather pants.
  • Homesickness Hymn: Subverted in "Green Green Grass of Home", where the narrator sings of home and the people around him, only to realize that it was only a dream as he awaits execution on Death Row.
  • Image Song: The title song to the James Bond film Thunderball describes Bond perfectly.
    He always runs while others walk
    He acts, while other men just talk
    He thinks that the fight is worth it all
    So he strikes, like thunderball...
  • Incredibly Long Note: There is a debunked urban legend regarding his recording of the theme song for Thunderball that says he held the last note so long that he passed out. Not quite note , but it is an amazingly long note.
    • His 1994 single "If I Only Knew" starts out with an Incredibly Long Big "YES!".
  • Intercourse with You: "Sex Bomb" just oozes sex, and with one hot Ms. Fanservice, apparently.
  • Large Ham: Damn, he's passionate. On stage, it gets upped with one-handed gestures.
  • Lounge Lizard: Mars Attacks! ends with Tom Jones singing "It's Not Unusual" in his stage-act garb.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "It's Not Unusual" has a tune that swings in Jones' usual manner, but tells the story of a man with an unrequited love who suffers jealousy when he sees the woman he desires with other men. The big clue that the lyrics aren't happy as the tune is when he says, "I wanna die."
    • "Delilah" is a bright, upbeat sounding song with a very catchy chorus. Then you suddenly realize that you're singing about a man who stabbed his (allegedly) cheating girlfriend and is asking for forgiveness. The police are battering down the door as he begs her dead body for forgiveness. The song is, in fact, very dark. But people still sing it at holiday camps and rugby matches because the tune's nice.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Leather pants, unbuttoned shirts, just that huge baritone by itself! No wonder panty-throwing became a tradition at Tom Jones concerts. Hell, you should see him dance.
  • Murder Ballad: "Delilah" hits so many murder ballad tropes that many people don't realize it's not based on a traditional song.
  • One-Woman Song: "Delilah."
  • Pornomancer: As noted, even now when he's in his 80s, he can sing women out of their clothing whenever he damned well wants to.
  • Proper Lady: The song "She's a Lady" seems to be about this female archetypal character. She's got style, she's got grace, she knows her place, she's never in the way, she has always something nice to say... That little lady has got all it takes to make her man happy.
  • Renaissance Man: Seriously, its easier to count the number of musical genres this man hasn't recorded in than to count the ones he has.
  • Silly Love Songs: A lot of his songs are this. Of course, with that voice, you can hardly tell. "What's New Pussycat" might be the most obvious example.
  • Silver Fox: Tom has aged well and can still charm and win over the ladies as easily now as in his thirties.
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: He speaks with a thick, very recognizable Welsh accent. When he sings, it sounds like he's right out of Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Source Music: In The Emperor's New Groove, Jones voices a singer who croons to Emperor Kuzco while Kuzco dances along. The animated singer looks remarkably like the real Jones, in fact. Funnily enough, he took the role after Sting (who was already writing songs for the movie) turned it down, saying he was too old to make it work.
    • Similarly, at the end of Mars Attacks! (in which Jones appears as himself), Jones delivers a performance of his hit "It's Not Unusual" to a crowd of woodland animals, all of whom rock along to the tune.
  • Unmentionables: Sir Tom Jones prefers his lady fans throw only clean, unworn underpants specifically purchased for that purpose. Most of the time they do. Most of the time.
  • Window Watcher: "Delilah".
    I saw the light on the night that I passed by her window
  • World of Chaos: His "It'll Be Me" music video with Jools Holland. The original Jerry Lee Lewis song deliberately names all kinds of random bizarre things that you might see, and almost all of them appear in the video, usually rising up out of Jools' piano.

"Well, it sounds like you’ve got the symptoms of Tom Jones Syndrome."

"I've never heard of that, doc. Is it common?"

"It's not unusual."