June 7: Tom Jones - "What's New Pussycat," "She's a Lady" - is 71 years old today.

During his career, Jones has sung pop, rock, R&B, show tunes, country, dance, techno, soul and gospel. He has sold over 100 million records.

Thomas John Woodward, (OBE) AKA Tom Jones, was born in Treforest, South Wales. Jones began singing at an early age He is dyslexic and gained confidence through his singing.

Jones' bluesy singing style was influenced the most by American soul music. He became the frontman for Tommy Scott and the Senators, a Welsh beat group, in 1963. They soon gained a local following performing at dance halls and working men's clubs in South Wales.

In 1964, Jones recorded several solo tracks but was unsuccessful attracting a record label. One night, Jones was spotted by Gordon Mills, a London-based manager originally from South Wales at the Top Hat in Cwmtillery. Mills became Jones' manager, and took the young singer to London. Mills came up with 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 U.K. and the top ten in the U.S.

During 1965, Mills secured a number of movie themes for Jones to record, including the themes for the film What's New Pussycat?  and the James Bond film Thunderball. Jones was also awarded the Grammy Award for Best New Artist for 1965.

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Praise & Blame

In 1966, Jones' popularity began to fade so Mills altered 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 - open, half unbuttoned shirts and tight pants - became part of his stage act. He developed a big female following. Jones decided to record less, instead concentrating on his lucrative club performances.

Jones had an internationally successful television variety show from 1969 to 1971, and from 1980 to 1981.

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 Gordon Mills died of cancer in July 1986, Jones again shifted his image and style. He Jones re-entered the singles chart in 1987 with "A Boy From Nowhere," which went to #2 in the U.K. The following year, he covered Prince's "Kiss" with The Art of Noise. The song reached #5 in the U.K. and #31 in the U.S. 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."

In 2008, Jones 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 200 dates a year as he approached his 70th birthday, set out on a world tour to promote the album.

Jones went to the top of the UK Music Charts for the third time in his career when he covered "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 Jones' 70th birthday, the single "Burning Hell," a cover of the John Lee Hooker classic, from his latest album, Praise & Blame album, was released.



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