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Barry Egan: It's not unusual that Tom Jones is still king


Vintage Tom Jones

Vintage Tom Jones

Vintage Tom Jones

Tom Jones could have gone down the mines, like his father did. Instead he became a singer. This is a good thing.

Tom's voice, a low baritone rumble, carries for miles from somewhere deep down in his soul. And it's not so much a voice as a tower of emotion.

Perhaps it's not unusual that this voice has got better with time. His last album, 2015's Long Lost Suitcase, featured Tom at his best on re-workings of Why Don't You Love Me Like You Used to Do? by Hank Williams, and Willie Nelson's Opportunity to Cry.

Like some of the old blues belters from the Mississippi Delta who Tom worshipped as a kid starting off in a little village in Wales, the singer is getting better with age.

The 79-year-old has sold out his show at the Botanic Gardens, Belfast on May 31, adding a June 3 date due to demand.

He also sold out the Marquee show in Cork on June 2 - and he is sure to do the same at Energia Park, Dublin, on July 3.

In 2009, after his show at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, I had a drink or two with Tom near his home in Beverly Hills. It was a remarkable night because of the remarkable conversation that followed over a bottle of Champagne.

At the show in the Greek, one of the stand-out tracks was The Road, a ballad/ public apology of sorts to his wife, Melinda Trenchard, who stood by him for 59 years as he went from affair to affair - there was a reigning Miss World, and Mary Wilson of the Supremes, and in December 2008, Tom finally admitted model Katherine Berkery's claims that she had a child by him.

Confessing to his weaknesses, Tom sang on The Road how he "felt the weakness, when I was strong/Held sweetness, when it was wrong", leaving Linda "shattered on the ground" weeping "tears of rain".

"No matter what I've done or where I've been, the road has always led back to Linda," Tom said that night over a decade ago in Bel Air. "I told Linda the song was about her. I told her not to take the lines literally.

"The other night we were watching David Letterman and he was reading out his lists and then suddenly he says, 'People get laid but no one gets laid like Tom Jones'. And Paul Shaffer [Letterman's band-leader sidekick] says, 'And that's a fact!'

"I looked at my wife - and she said: 'Maybe that's a compliment.'"

But how did she feel about the affair with Mary Wilson?

"She found out. She said: 'You have to stop this. This is bullshit.'"

She never threatened to throw you out for all your philandering?

"No, but I told her I was going to straighten it out, I promise."

And what did she say to that, Tom?

"'You better straighten it out,' she told me, 'because you won't be able to do anything without your balls.'

"I understand, I told her. She is a strong woman, my wife. She told me once that she was married to Tom Woodward [Tom's real name], not Tom Jones. She told me not to get carried away with this s***."

Linda - his childhood sweetheart - died of cancer on April 10, 2016. And when you hear him sing The Road, the pain is as real as anything you will ever hear anywhere.

Sunday Indo Living