Toms Jones Enjoys The Moment As He Sings Delilah At Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Concert 2012

Tom Jones loves to sing. He sings at the opening of an envelope on his many television appearances. Willie Nelson is like that too. Johnny Cash was also. It’s a good thing, in these cases. Tom Jones is a great Welsh singer; an important voice in the history of popular music. That’s a large part of it: the Tom Jones Voice! What tips it is the pleasure Tom Jones takes in singing. He always gets his groove on. He is Tom Jones after all. He loves to sing.

Johnny Cash’s breakthrough song, Folsom Prison Blues (1956), contained the lines “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die”. It remains an audience favorite. The same goes for Tom Jones’ early hit Delilah (1968). The song is thought to allude to the plots of the operas Carmen and Pagliacci – a jilted lover stabs his lady love. Delilah is melodramatic, melodic, and madly catchy. The song became a Welsh rugby stadium favorite. Jones even sang it at QE2’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Let’s look:

As usual, Tom Jones delivered a memorable performance. The forefronting of the song’s flamenco setting gives this Delilah a particularly jaunty, slightly demented lurch. Everybody claps; Prince Harry sings along. Tom Jones beams as he takes the part of a murderer declaiming his plight while waiting for the police to arrest him. He radiates happiness as he dispenses with poor Delilah, who laughed in his face. There he is, in front of Buckingham Palace, singing about domestic violence, smiling.

I speak with the benefit of hindsight. The appropriateness of Delilah’s use by Welsh Rugby became an issue in 2014. The lyrics were scrutinized and, in 2015, Welsh Rugby removed Delilah from its playlists. This doesn’t mean that there is no place for murder ballads any more than it means that crime TV should be banned. It just means a song like Delilah is no longer a Welsh-Rugby-sanctioned, unofficial Welsh anthem. Here is Johnny Cash with his later, unrepentant, reworking of Delia (1994).

Wikipedia notes that in February 2023, domestic abuse campaigner Rachel Williams said that educating people on violence against women is better than banning Delilah and other similar pieces such as Carmen, Pagliacci, and William Shakespeare’s Othello. There is good sense in that – there are many gruesome murders in art, literature, and music. To be clear, the Music Man abhors violence against women.

Murder ballads are often theatrical. In Delilah, there is a built-in escape clause to Barry Mason and Sylvan Whittingham’s dramatic lyrics. The protagonist shows his knife, and Delilah laughs no more – there is a gap in the story, things left unsaid. At the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, swept along by the festive mood, lost in the pleasure of singing his old hit, Tom Jones was in no mood for fudging. He happily mimes the stabbing. In this reading, there can be no doubt that the protagonist is a brutal murderer, and, if he has any redeeming quality, it is that he waits for his punishment. In the meantime, the flamenco beat bops along. It’s a very odd, very catchy song.

Tom Jones was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2006. Commenting on the occasion, Jones said that the queen observed that he’d given people a lot of pleasure with his music for many years. Jones replied, “I’ve had a lot of pleasure doing it, Your Majesty.” She said, “Well, I’m sure you have.” Tom Jones loves to sing. He always has. For more music and updates about the legendary Welsh singer, please visit Tom Jones official website.

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