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Sir Thomas John Woodward, OBE (born 7 June 1940), known by his stage name Tom Jones, is a Welsh singer, particularly noted for his powerful voice. Since the mid 1960s, Jones has sung many styles of popular music – pop, rock, R&B, show tunes, country, dance, techno, soul and gospel – and sold over 100 million records.
Tom Jones was born at 57 Kingsland Terrace, Treforest, Pontypridd in South Wales. His parents were Thomas Woodward (died 5 October 1981), a coal miner, and Freda Jones (died 7 February 2003). His family was mainly of English descent, with both of his paternal grandparents being born in England and his maternal grandmother born in Wales to English parents. Most of his ancestral roots appear to lie in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset.
Jones began singing at an early age: he would regularly sing at family gatherings, weddings, and in his school choir. Jones is dyslexic and he did not like school or sports; however, he was able to gain confidence through his singing talent. At age 12, Jones was struck down by 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.
In March 1957, Jones married his high school girlfriend, Melinda Trenchard. The couple had a son named Mark, who was born 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.
Jones' bluesy singing style developed out of the sound of American soul music. His early influences included blues and R & B greats like Little Richard, Solomon Burke, Jackie Wilson, and Brook Benton. Jerry Lee Lewis’s music also influenced him from a rock and roll perspective.
Jones became the frontman for Tommy Scott and the Senators, a Welsh beat group, in 1963. They soon gained a local following and reputation in South Wales.
In 1964, Jones recorded several solo tracks with producer Joe Meek, who took them to various labels, but 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 their 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, Wales, Jones was spotted by Gordon Mills, a London-based manager originally from South Wales. Mills became Jones' manager, and took the young singer to London. He contrived the stage name, "Tom Jones," which not only linked the singer to the image of the title character in Tony Richardson's hit film, but also emphasised Jones' Welsh nationality.
Many record companies found Jones' stage presence, act, and vocal delivery too raucous and raunchy. Eventually, Mills got Jones a recording contract with Decca. His first single, "Chills and Fever," was released in late 1964. It didn't chart, but the follow-up, "It's Not Unusual" became an international hit. The BBC initially refused to play it, but the offshore pirate radio station Radio Caroline promoted it. The heavily orchestrated pop arrangement perfectly meshed with Jones' swinging, sexy image, and in early 1965, "It's Not Unusual" reached number one in the United Kingdom and the top ten in the United States.
During 1965, Mills secured a number of movie themes for Jones to record, including the themes for the film What's New Pussycat? (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David) and for the James Bond film Thunderball. Jones was also awarded the Grammy Award for Best New Artist for 1965.
In 1966, Jones' popularity began to slip somewhat, causing Mills to redesign the singer's image into a more respectable and mature crooner. Jones also began to sing material that appealed to a wider audience, such as the big 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 USA. For the remainder of the decade, he scored a consistent string of hits on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 1967, Jones performed for the first time in Las Vegas at the Flamingo. His charismatic performances and style of dress (increasingly featuring his open half unbuttoned shirts and tight pants) became part of his stage act. Women would swoon and scream, and some would throw their knickers on stage. Soon after he began to play Las Vegas, he chose to record less, instead concentrating on his lucrative club performances. At Caesars Palace, his shows were traditionally a knicker-hurling frenzy of raw sexual tension and good-time entertainment. It was there that women started throwing hotel room keys on stage. Jones and his idol Elvis Presley met in 1965 at the Paramount film stage, when Elvis was filming Paradise, Hawaiian Style. Afterward, they became good friends, spending more and more time together in Las Vegas and even duetting until the early hours at Presley's private Las Vegas suite. Their friendship endured until Presley's death in 1977.
Jones had an internationally successful television variety show from 1969 to 1971, titled This Is Tom Jones. The show, which was worth a reported $9m to Jones over three years, was broadcast by ITV in the UK and by ABC in America. From 1980 to 1981, he had a second television variety show, The Tom Jones Show, which lasted for a series of 24 episodes. In recent years, both television shows have been the subject of litigation in relation to the original license holder, C/F International.
As of December 2004, C/F International was a secured judgment creditor of Classic World Productions and its principal, Darryl Payne, for approximately one million US dollars, 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 royalties in relation to This Is Tom Jones, and related recordings. This Is Tom Jones is currently 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 subject to dispute. In March 2007, Tom Jones and Tom Jones Enterprises sued C/F International to stop the company from licensing sound recordings made from The Tom Jones Show, recorded in Vancouver, Canada. It was contended that any rights that C/F International had to license The Tom Jones Show did not include the right to make and license separate recordings of the performances on the show. In addition, it was contended that any rights that C/F International had in The Tom Jones Show no longer existed, due to numerous breaches of contract. Examples of contentious CDs include "Live on the Tom Jones Show", released in 2006.
Jones appeared on 1 January 1970, on the BBC's review of the sixties music scene, Pop Go The Sixties, performing "Delilah" (in a telerecording of an earlier appearance on Top of the Pops).
Later in 1970, Jones teamed up with Raquel Welch and Producer and Choreographer David Winters of Winters-Rosen Productions for the TV special Raquel. The multimillion-dollar TV song & dance extravaganza was filmed around the world. It included lavish production numbers of classic songs from the era, lavish costumes, and guest performances from Jones, John Wayne and Bob Hope.
In the early 1970s, Jones 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, although he did have a big hit in 1976 with "Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow", which went to #1 on the US country chart and #15 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In the early 1980s, Jones started to record country music. From 1980 to 1986, Jones had nine songs hit the top 40 on the US country chart, yet he failed to crack the top 100 in the UK or chart on the Billboard Hot 100.
After Jones' long-time manager Gordon Mills died of cancer on 29 July 1986, Jones' son Mark became his new manager. Mark recognised that Jones was incorporating modern music in his live shows and suggested that he should start to record songs from a fresh genre and leave country music behind.
In 1987, Jones re-entered the singles chart with "A Boy From Nowhere", which went to #2 in the United Kingdom. The following year, he covered Prince's "Kiss" with The Art of Noise. The song was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching #5 in the UK and #31 in the US. The video for "Kiss" was seen in heavy rotation on both MTV and VH1, and it won the MTV Video Music Award for Breakthrough Video."
Jones received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989. His star is 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 on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a television sitcom, and in animated form for an episode of 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 #11 in the UK.
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, The Stereophonics, and Robbie Williams. The album went to #1 in the UK and sold over 4 million copies worldwide. Five singles from Reload hit the UK top 40.
To ring in the year 2000, United States President Bill Clinton invited Jones to perform on New Year's Eve at the Millennium celebrations in Washington, D.C. Throughout 2000, Jones garnered a number of honours for his work, including a BRIT Award for Best 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 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 #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 a crowd of about 20,000. This was his first performance in Pontypridd since 1964. That same year, the BBC reported that Jones was Wales' wealthiest entertainer, having amassed a fortune of £175 million. Jones collaborated with English-born 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 single "Stoned in Love", which went to #7 in the UK.
Jones was awarded an OBE in 1999 and knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006 at Buckingham Palace for his services to music. "When you first come into show business and get a hit record, it is the start of something," Jones said. "As time goes by, it just gets better. This is the best thing I have had. It's a wonderful feeling, a heady feeling."
On 1 July 2007, Jones was among the invited artists who performed at Wembley Stadium at the Concert for Diana, joined on stage by guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith and British soul singer Joss Stone. In addition to performing some of his own songs, the group covered Arctic Monkeys' "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor". Jones, a big boxing fan, has performed national anthems before a number of boxing matches. He sang "God Save the Queen", the United Kingdom's national anthem, before the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Ricky Hatton fight in 2007, he sang "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau", the Welsh national anthem, at the 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 US for over 15 years. Jones, who was still performing over two hundred dates a year as he approached his 70th 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. In 2008 also Tom Jones was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. On 16 November 2008, Jones 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 9th 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 Little Fockers.
In February 2009, he did an exclusive Take-Away Show with Vincent Moon, performing three songs live in front of a camera in a New York hotel room. In 2009 Jones was voted "Sexiest Man In The World" in the Hungarian magazine Periodika.
Jones went to the top of the UK Music Charts for the third time in his career thanks to 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 song, inspired by BBC's hit sitcom Gavin and Stacey, was released in aid of Comic Relief and reached #1 in March 2009.
On 5 June 2010, Jones had been due to perform at Norwich City Football Club's Carrow Road stadium, two days before he celebrated his 70th birthday. Unfortunately the show was cancelled due to uncompleted improvements to the stadium and the work falling behind schedule meaning the stadium wouldn't be ready in time. Jones announced that his new album Praise & Blame would be released on 26 July 2010. The album, produced by Ethan Johns (who has previously worked with Kings Of Leon, Rufus Wainwright and Laura Marling), would include covers of songs by such artists as Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker and Billy Joe Shaver and feature such guest musicians as Booker T.
On Jones' 70th birthday, 7 June 2010, the single "Burning Hell", a cover of the John Lee Hooker classic, from the forthcoming Praise & Blame album, was released. In July 2010 it was reported, however, 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 record had been "a sick joke". Jones later attacked Sharpe and revealed 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 number 2 on the UK album chart.
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 classic hit "Green Green Grass of Home". On 22 September, Jones appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman" at the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York. Last year he ditched his hair dye and declared he’d moved onto a new stage in his life: "Over Christmas, I always take a month off and let my hair go and don’t even shave. ‘Normally it comes out like salt and pepper, which I hated. But this year it grew out a silver colour, so I kept it because it’s more distinguished," he said.
In May 2011 Jones appeared as 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 May 25, 2011, he appeared on American Idol after a medley of his hits performed by the American Idol "Top 13."
Jones has remained married to Melinda since 1957, despite his many well publicised infidelities. His philandering once led her to beat him black and blue. She snapped after reading about one infidelity in a newspaper. She punched and kicked him, but Jones did not fight back: "I took it," Jones said.
Jones has had affairs with such well-known women as Mary Wilson of The Supremes, former Miss World Marjorie Wallace and Cassandra Peterson, better known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Peterson claims that she lost her virginity to Jones.
One affair resulted in the birth of a son. In October 1987, while on tour in America, Jones had a brief relationship with model Katherine Berkery. Three months later, Berkery discovered that she was pregnant. After a lengthy fight and DNA testing, an American court ruled in 1989 that Jones is the boy's father. He flatly denied paternity for 20 years, but finally admitted it in 2008. However, he made no suggestion that he wanted to meet his son, Jonathan Berkery.
Jones moved to the United States in 1974, buying Dean Martin's former mansion in the East Gate Old Bel Air in Los Angeles. In 2009, after 35 years in America, he revealed that he and Linda were planning to move back to the United Kingdom. "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." However, on The Chris Moyles Show on 27 July 2009, he said he still lives in Los Angeles and will remain there for the foreseeable future as he still frequently stays at his home in London.