Tom Jones (singer)Sir Thomas John Woodward (born 7 June 1940), known professionally as Tom Jones, is a Welsh singer. His career began with a string of top-ten hits in the mid-1960s. He has toured regularly, with appearances in Las Vegas (1967–2011). Jones's voice has been described by Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic as a "full-throated, robust baritone".
His performing range has included pop, R&B, show tunes, country, dance, soul and gospel. In 2008, the New York Times called Jones a musical "shape shifter", who could "slide from soulful rasp to pop croon, with a voice as husky as it was pretty". Jones has sold over 100 million records, with 36 Top 40 hits in the UK and 19 in the US, including "It's Not Unusual", "What's New Pussycat", the theme song for the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball, "Green, Green Grass of Home", "Delilah", "She's a Lady", "Kiss" and "Sex Bomb".
Jones made his acting debut playing the lead role in the 1979 television film Pleasure Cove. He played himself in Tim Burton's 1996 film Mars Attacks!. In 1970 he received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy nomination for hosting the television series This Is Tom Jones. In 2012, he played a role in an episode of Playhouse Presents. Jones received a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1966, an MTV Video Music Award in 1989, as well as two Brit Awards: Best British Male in 2000 and the Outstanding Contribution to Music award in 2003. Jones was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998 and knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to music in 2005. Jones experienced a resurgence in notability in the 2010s due to his coaching role on the television talent show The Voice UK from 2012 (with the exception of 2016).
Early lifeJones was born Thomas John Woodward at 57 Kingsland Terrace, Treforest, Pontypridd, in Glamorgan, South Wales. His parents were Thomas Woodward (31 March 1910 – 5 October 1981), a coal miner, and Freda Jones (30 December 1914 – 7 February 2003). Three of his grandparents were of English origin: his paternal grandfather, James Woodward, was an ironmonger's haulier from Gloucestershire, and his paternal grandmother, Anne Woodward, was from Wiltshire. His maternal grandfather, Albert Jones, was Welsh, and his maternal grandmother, Ada Jones, was born in Pontypridd, to parents from Somerset and Wiltshire.
Jones attended Wood Road Infants School, Wood Road Junior School and Pontypridd Central Secondary Modern School. He began singing at an early age: he would regularly sing at family gatherings, weddings and in his school choir. Jones did not like school or sports, but gained confidence through his singing talent. At 12 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Many years later he said: "I spent two years in bed recovering. It was the worst time of my life." During convalescence, he could do little else but listen to music and draw.
Jones's bluesy singing style developed out of the sound of American soul music. His early influences included blues, R&B and rock and roll singers Little Richard, Solomon Burke, Jackie Wilson, Brook Benton, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.
In March 1957 Jones married his high school girlfriend, Linda Trenchard, when they were expecting a child together, both aged 16. The couple's son, Mark, was born in the month following their wedding. To support his young family, Jones took a job working in a glove factory and was later employed in construction.
Rise to fameJones's voice has been described as a "full-throated, robust baritone". He became the frontman in 1963 for Tommy Scott and the Senators, a Welsh beat group. They soon gained a local following and reputation in South Wales. In 1964, the group recorded several solo tracks with producer Joe Meek, who took them to various record labels, but they had little success. Later that year, Decca producer Peter Sullivan saw Tommy Scott and the Senators performing in a club and directed them to manager Phil Solomon, but the partnership was short-lived.
The group continued to play gigs at dance halls and working men's clubs in South Wales. One night at the Top Hat in Cwmtillery, Jones was spotted by Gordon Mills, a London-based manager who also originally hailed from South Wales. Mills became Jones's manager, took the young singer to London, and also renamed him "Tom Jones", to exploit the popularity of the Academy Award-winning 1963 film.
Eventually, Mills got Jones a recording contract with Decca. His first single, "Chills and Fever", was released in late 1964. It did not chart, but the follow-up, "It's Not Unusual", became an international hit after offshore pirate radio station Radio Caroline promoted it. The following year was the most prominent of Jones's career, making him one of the most popular vocalists of the British Invasion. In early 1965, "It's Not Unusual" reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom and the top ten in the United States. During 1965, Mills secured a number of film themes for Jones to record, including the theme songs for the film What's New Pussycat? (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David) and also for the James Bond film Thunderball. Jones was also awarded the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1966. In Hollywood, Jones met Elvis Presley for the first time; he recalls Presley singing his song as he walked towards him on set.
In 1966, Jones's popularity began to slip somewhat, causing Mills to reshape the singer's image into that of a crooner. Jones also began to sing material that appealed to a wider audience, such as the country hit "Green, Green Grass of Home". The strategy worked, and Jones returned to the top of the charts in the UK and began hitting the Top 40 again in the US. For the remainder of the decade, he scored a string of hits on both sides of the Atlantic, including "I'll Never Fall in Love Again", "I'm Coming Home", and "Delilah", each of which reached No. 2 in the UK chart.
Las VegasIn 1967, Jones performed in Las Vegas for the first time, at the Flamingo. His performances and style of dress became part of his stage act, and increasingly featured his open, half-unbuttoned shirts and tight trousers. He soon chose to record less, instead concentrating on his lucrative club performances.
Jones and his idol Elvis Presley met in 1965 at the Paramount film stage, when Elvis was filming Paradise, Hawaiian Style. They became good friends, spending more and more time together in Las Vegas and duetting until the early hours at Presley's private suite. The friendship endured until Presley's death in 1977. Jones's guitarist between 1969 and 1974 was Big Jim Sullivan, who also met and formed a friendship with Presley.
Jones played in Las Vegas at least one week each year until 2011.
Jones had an internationally successful television variety show titled This Is Tom Jones from 1969 to 1971. The Associated Television-produced show was worth a reported to Jones over three years. It was broadcast by ITV in the UK and by the American Broadcasting Company in the US. As a result of the show, Jones was nominated in 1970 for a "best actor" Golden Globe. From 1980 to 1981, he had a second television variety show, Tom Jones, which was produced in Vancouver, Canada, and lasted 24 episodes. Both television shows were the subject of litigation with the original licence holder C/F International. , C/F International was a secured judgment creditor of Classic World Productions and its principal, Darryl Payne, for approximately , and was the principal secured creditor at the time of the subsequent bankruptcy filing by the company. C/F International's action against Classic World Productions and owner Darryl Payne was based on unpaid royalty payments from This Is Tom Jones and related recordings. This Is Tom Jones is sold on DVD by Time Life rather than by Classic World Productions or C/F International.
C/F International's rights to later Tom Jones material were also disputed. In March 2007, Tom Jones and Tom Jones Enterprises sued C/F International to stop the company from licensing sound recordings made from the 1981 Tom Jones series. It was contended that any rights that C/F International had to licence the Tom Jones show did not include the right to make and licence separate recordings of the performances on the show, and that any rights that C/F International had in the Tom Jones show no longer existed because of numerous breaches of contract. Examples of contentious CDs are Live on the Tom Jones Show, released in 2006, and Greatest Hits Live, originally issued by C/F International in 1981 and later licensed to and issued by Prism Leisure Corporation as 30 Greatest Hits – Live in Concert.
On 26 April 1970, CBS released the television special Raquel! directed by David Winters, in which he was a guest. It starred Raquel Welch, and other guests included Bob Hope and John Wayne. It was filmed in London, Paris, Acapulco, Mexico City, Yucatan, Big Sur, and Los Angeles and featured lavish production numbers. Welch and Jones combined musical and comedic talents on classic rock 'n' roll standards of the era. Produced by Winters' company Winters/Rosen for CBS-TV, originally co-sponsored by Coca-Cola and Motorola. On the day of the premiere, the show received a 51% share on the National ARB Ratings and an impressive Overnight New York Nielsen Rating of 58% share.
Decline and resurgence
In the 1970s, Jones toured with the female singing groups Quiet Elegance and the Blossoms as his backing groups. He had a number of hit singles, including "She's a Lady", "Till", and "The Young New Mexican Puppeteer", but in the mid-1970s his popularity declined. He did, however, have a big hit in 1976 with "Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow", which went to No. 1 on the US country chart, No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached No. 40 on the UK Singles Chart.
In 1972, he reunited with director and choreographer David Winters for the musical television special The Special London Bridge Special, co-starring Jennifer O'Neill. Others who participated as guests included The Carpenters, Kirk Douglas, Jonathan Winters, Hermione Gingold, Lorne Greene, Chief Dan George, Charlton Heston, George Kirby, Michael Landon, Terry-Thomas, Engelbert Humperdinck, Elliott Gould, Merle Park, and Rudolf Nureyev.
In 1976, Jones was set to make his film debut in the film Yockowald, in which he was to play a CIA assassin. The film was shelved after the production ran out of money three weeks into filming.
In 1979, Jones made his acting debut in Pleasure Cove, an ABC television film which was an unsuccessful pilot for a potential television series along the lines of Love Boat and Fantasy Island. In the film, he played a suave conman named Raymond Gordon staying at the holiday island resort of the title. His co-stars in the film included Constance Forslund, Tanya Roberts and David Hasselhoff. He guest-starred in an episode of Fantasy Island in 1984.
In the early 1980s, Jones started to record country music. From 1980 to 1986, he had nine songs in the US country top 40, yet failed to crack the top 100 in the UK or the Billboard Hot 100. Jones's manager Gordon Mills died of cancer on 29 July 1986, and Jones's son Mark became his manager.
In 1987, Tom Jones re-entered the singles chart with "A Boy From Nowhere", which went to No. 2 in the UK. The following year, he covered Prince's "Kiss" with Art of Noise. The song reached No. 5 in the UK and No. 31 in the US. The video for "Kiss" was played frequently on MTV and VH1, and won the MTV Video Music Award for Breakthrough Video.
Jones received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989, located at 6608 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, in front of Frederick's of Hollywood. In 1992, he made his first appearance at the UK's Glastonbury Festival, and in 1993 he appeared as himself in episodes of two popular US sitcoms, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Simpsons.
Jones signed with Interscope Records in 1993 and released the album The Lead And How To Swing It. The first single, "If I Only Knew", went to No. 11 in the UK. Jones performed the song at the 1994 MTV Europe Music Awards, for which he also served as host. In 1997, Jones contributed to the soundtrack for the UK comedy film The Full Monty, recording "You Can Leave Your Hat On".
In 1996, he appeared as himself in Tim Burton's ensemble science-fiction comedy film Mars Attacks!. A scene in the film features Jones performing on stage when aliens attack and he manages to escape with a gun.
In 1999, Jones released the album Reload, a collection of cover duets with artists such as the Cardigans, Natalie Imbruglia, Cerys Matthews, Van Morrison, Mousse T, Portishead, Stereophonics and Robbie Williams. The album went to No. 1 in the UK and sold over 4 million copies worldwide. Five singles from Reload charted in the UK top 40. The single "Sex Bomb" was released in early 2000 and became the album's biggest single, reaching No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart.
Into the 21st centuryUS President Bill Clinton invited Jones to perform on New Year's Eve at the 2000 millennium celebrations in Washington DC. In 2000, Jones garnered a number of honours for his work, including a BRIT Award for Best British Male. He was also hired as the new voice of Australia's National Rugby League, singing in an advertisement to market the 2000 season.
In 2002, Jones released the album Mr. Jones, which was produced by Haitian-American rapper Wyclef Jean. The album and the first single, "Tom Jones International", were top 40 hits in the UK.
Jones received the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music in 2003. The following year, he teamed up with pianist Jools Holland and released Tom Jones & Jools Holland, a roots rock 'n' roll album. It peaked at No. 5 in the UK.
On 28 May 2005, in celebration of his upcoming 65th birthday, Jones returned to his homeland to perform a concert in Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd before an audience of about 20,000. This was his first performance in Pontypridd since 1964. That same year, the BBC reported that Jones was Wales's wealthiest entertainer, having amassed a fortune of £175,000,000. Jones collaborated with Australian pop singer John Farnham in 2005 and released the live album John Farnham & Tom Jones – Together in Concert. The following year, Jones worked with Chicane and released the dance track "Stoned in Love", which went to No. 7 in the UK Singles Chart.
Jones, who had been awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1999, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006 at Buckingham Palace for his services to music. After receiving a knighthood, Jones stated: "When you first come into show business and get a hit record, it is the start of something. As time goes by it just gets better. This is the best thing I have had. It's a wonderful feeling, a heady feeling."
2007–2009On 1 July 2007, Jones was among the artists who performed at Wembley Stadium at the Concert for Diana, joined on stage by guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith and soul singer Joss Stone. In addition to performing some of his own songs, the group covered the Arctic Monkeys song, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor". A boxing fan, Jones has performed national anthems before a number of boxing matches. He sang "God Save the Queen", the national anthem of the United Kingdom, before the Floyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton fight in 2007; he sang "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau", the Welsh national anthem, at the Bernard Hopkins-Joe Calzaghe fight between fellow Welshman Joe Calzaghe and Bernard Hopkins in 2008; and he sang "God Save the Queen" before the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight in 2009.In 2008, he released 24 Hours on S-Curve Records, his first album of new material to be issued in the United States for over 15 years. Jones, who was still performing over 200 dates a year as he approached his seventieth birthday, set out on a world tour to promote the album. "The fire is still in me. Not to be an oldie, but a goodie. I want to be a contender", Jones said. Also in 2008, Jones was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. On 16 November 2008, he was invited to perform on BBC's Strictly Come Dancing; he performed the debut single from 24 Hours, "If He Should Ever Leave You", which was named the ninth-best song of 2008 by Spinner. One of the songs from 24 Hours, "Give a Little Love", would later be featured in the first trailer for the 2010 comedy film, Little Fockers.
In February 2009, Jones appeared in an exclusive Take-Away Show with Vincent Moon, performing three songs live in front of a camera in a New York hotel room. In March 2009, Jones went to the top of the UK Music Charts for the third time in his career with a cover of "Islands in the Stream", sung with Ruth Jones, Rob Brydon and Robin Gibb, who co-wrote the original with his brothers Barry and Maurice. The record, which was inspired by the song's having featured in the BBC's hit sitcom Gavin & Stacey, was released in aid of Comic Relief and reached No. 1 in March 2009.
Jones's album Praise & Blame was released on 26 July 2010. The album, consisting primarily of gospel and blues songs, included covers of songs by Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker and Billy Joe Shaver, and featured guest musicians such as Booker T.
On 7 June 2010, which was Jones's seventieth birthday, the single "Burning Hell", a cover of the John Lee Hooker song from the Praise & Blame album, was released. In July 2010, it was reported that David Sharpe, vice-president of Island Records (to whom Jones had moved, from EMI, for £1.5m in October 2009), had emailed colleagues demanding that they "pull back this project immediately or get my money back" and asking if the spiritually themed record had been a "sick joke". Jones later strongly criticised Sharpe and said that he was furious about the leaked email.
In July 2010, Jones appeared on the penultimate episode of Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and performed "Burning Hell". In August 2010, Praise & Blame debuted at No. 2 on the UK album chart. By 2010 Jones had sold a total of over 100 million records.
On 11 September 2010, Jones performed for an audience of 50,000 at the Help for Heroes charity concert at Twickenham Stadium performing "Strange Things Are Happening Every Day" and his hit "Green, Green Grass of Home". On 22 September, Jones appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York.
In May 2011, Jones appeared as a guest vocalist on the debut album Let Them Talk by Hugh Laurie. On 15 May 2011, he appeared alongside Laurie in the UK ITV series Perspectives, singing music from the album in New Orleans. On 25 May 2011, he appeared on American Idol after a medley of his hits performed by the American Idol "Top 13".
Jones released a single on 19 March 2012, produced by former White Stripes frontman Jack White, called Evil. The single was first made available through independent record shops in 7" vinyl format on 5 March. An exclusive three-coloured vinyl was also sold at only one shop – Spillers Records in Cardiff. The shop, from which Jones bought records as a schoolboy in the 1950s and early 1960s, was founded in 1894 and is listed in Guinness World Records as the oldest record shop in the world.
In March 2012, Jones became a coach on the BBC talent show The Voice UK. Jones was joined by will.i.am, Jessie J and Danny O'Donoghue. He mentored Leanne Mitchell to win the first series. Jones returned to coach in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In August 2015, it was announced that Jones's contract with the show would not be renewed and that he would be replaced by Boy George. Jones criticised BBC executives for "sub-standard behaviour", having not consulted with him and informing him only 24 hours before the official announcement.
In May 2012, Jones released the album Spirit in the Room on Island Records/Universal Music. The track listing included covers of songs by Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen and Richard and Linda Thompson, Blind Willie Johnson, Tom Waits and the Low Anthem.
In May 2012, he starred in a one-off television drama titled "King of the Teds" which aired on Sky Arts as part of a series of standalone teleplays for Playhouse Presents.
On 4 June 2012, Jones performed at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert in front of Buckingham Palace, singing "Delilah" and "Mama Told Me Not to Come".
On 18 August 2012, Jones performed a fifty-minute set at the V Festival’s Weston Park site in Staffordshire. On 9 September 2012, Jones headlined at BBC Radio 2's Live in Hyde Park festival.
In May 2014, Jones opened for Morrissey at a special show in the United States. On 27 September 2014, Jones performed at the Australian Football League's pre-game entertainment for the 2014 Grand Final along with Ed Sheeran.
In September 2015, Jones announced the long-awaited release of his album Long Lost Suitcase, on 9 October, through Virgin/EMI. The album is the third in a trilogy of albums, following Praise & Blame (2010) and Spirit in the Room (2012). The album's track titles are interwoven into the chapters of his autobiography Over the Top and Back released at the same time. It was produced by Ethan Johns and the diverse range of compositions includes songs from Gillian Welch, the Rolling Stones, Hank Williams and the Milk Carton Kids.
In November 2015, Jones appeared alongside Rob Brydon in a special 90-minute show, from the SSE Arena, Wembley, for BBC's Children in Need.
In 2015, he appeared on the BBC's Jools' Annual Hootenanny, broadcast on New Year's Eve, on which he duetted with Paul Weller.
In 2017, he returned to The Voice as a coach for series 6.
In 2018, he embarked on a live summer tour, which was planned to run from 1 May to 11 August. In July, however, many shows were cancelled due to sickness or bad weather.
On 25 June 2019 The New York Times Magazine listed Jones among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
Personal lifeJones was married to Linda (born 1941 as Melinda Rose Trenchard) from 2 March 1957 until her death on 10 April 2016. They stayed married despite his many well-publicised infidelities. The couple had one son, Mark Woodward (born 1957).
Jones has stated that he had sex with up to 250 groupies a year at the height of his fame. His philandering once led Linda to assault him. Jones had affairs with well-known women, including Mary Wilson of the Supremes, TV host Charlotte Laws, and former Miss World Marjorie Wallace. In a 2008 interview with Blender magazine, Cassandra Peterson (better known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark) revealed she lost her virginity to Jones.
One affair resulted in the birth of a son. In October 1987, while on tour in the US, Jones had a brief relationship with model Katherine Berkery, who then discovered she was pregnant. After a legal battle that included DNA testing, a United States court ruled in 1989 that Jones was the boy's father. Jones denied the court's findings, until finally, in 2008, he admitted they were true. He has shown no interest in meeting his son, Jonathan Berkery.
Following the election of a Labour government in 1974, Jones became a tax exile to avoid a 98 per cent income tax. In June 1976, he purchased the red-brick mansion at 363 Copa De Oro Road in the East Gate Old Bel Air in Los Angeles from Dean Martin for $500,000. He sold it to Nicolas Cage in 1998 for a reported $6.469 million. In 2009, after 35 years in the US, Jones said that he and his wife were planning to move back to the UK. "I've had a great time living in Los Angeles", Jones said, "but after all these years, we think now is the time to move home".
In October 2015 his autobiography, Over the Top and Back: The Autobiography, was published by Michael Joseph. Reviewing the book in the Daily Express, Clair Woodward said, "In the tradition of so many autobiographies these days, Tom Jones's doesn't tell you what you really want to hear. ... What you are left with is a riotously enjoyable story of Jones 'The Voice' which nicely doubles as the story of British pop and light entertainment from the Sixties onwards."
Linda, Lady Woodward, died on 10 April 2016 at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, after a "short but fierce" battle with cancer, with Jones cancelling concerts at the time. After her death, Jones sold their Los Angeles mansion and its contents, apart from treasured photos, and moved back to the UK. He resides in a flat in London, as she suggested.
Cultural influenceSpace and Cerys Matthews released "The Ballad of Tom Jones", a song about a fighting couple who are calmed down by listening to Jones's music on the radio. The song reached No. 4 in the UK in 1998.
A new musical, Tom: A Story of Tom Jones, based on the singer's life and recordings, produced by Theatr na nÓg, opened at the Wales Millennium Centre in March 2016. Reviewing the show for The Stage, Mark Shenton wrote:
...the show itself, written by Mike James and directed by Geinor Styles, is a more humdrum—while hummable—affair than its star and subject deserves. In the familiar jukebox musical style of shows like Jersey Boys and Beautiful, "A Story of Tom Jones" charts the behind-the-scenes rise to fame of a pop star, but without the craft or polish.
Similar to Elvis Presley with his impersonators, Tom Jones has his share of imitators around the world. These are performers who either sound like him or imitate his act.
In the 2006 film Flushed Away, the main character Roddy is mistaken for Tom Jones by another character while Roddy performs "She's a Lady". Jones's song, "What's New Pussycat?", is played during the ending credits.
In the video game Team Fortress 2, one of the playable characters the Scout is a collector of Tom Jones' merchandise, and upon his death in the comics one of the other characters, the Spy falsely convinces him that Tom Jones is in fact his father. Tom Jones is also depicted using the phrase "What's new pussycat?" several times.