Sir Tom Jones, 78, has sold more than 100 million records and CDs worldwide, and still performs to packed houses today. He is also a coach on the talent show The Voice UK. The Welsh singer shares what he knows about agelessness.
You can’t be good at everything
When I was a kid, I was useless at school – a bit dyslexic, possibly. I wasn’t much good at sports, either – I played rugby and boxed a bit, but I wasn’t very good because I didn’t like getting hit and hurt! On top of that, I contracted tuberculosis when I was 13. The doctor told my parents that, whatever they did, they were not to allow me to become a miner like my dad, because I had weak lungs. So, with my weak lungs, I became a singer instead!
Remember what matters
My knighthood was a great honour, but my greatest achievement was earning enough to let my dad retire at 50. I left school at 15 and became a labourer’s mate and sang at night in working men’s clubs. I was told to try my luck in London, so I went off as Tom Woodward and returned as Tom Jones (Jones is my mother’s maiden name). I hated leaving my wife Linda and son Mark in Wales, and vowed that, if I had any success, my family would not have to work again. Soon, Linda was able to leave the factory where she worked, Dad retired and my son Mark is now my manager!
Change is good
My voice has changed over time. I’ve lost a little bit at the top, but I’ve gained a tremendous amount at the bottom end. I couldn’t have sung some of the newer material when I was starting out. I think my voice has actually become richer. When you are younger, your inclination is to belt it out, which I still do, to an extent, but as you grow older, you can also get the pathos going. You learn that, over time.
Be comfortable with your looks
When I started, I was told, “you don’t look right.” The Beatles had just emerged and then the Stones came along, who were boyish looking. I wasn’t and was told, “you’re too macho, that doesn’t work any more. You won’t work and your voice is too big.” But I stuck to my guns. Since then, I’ve had some plastic surgery. I’ve had the fat removed from under my chin – my goatee hides the scar. My teeth have been capped and I’ve also had my nose straightened and my eyes done so that they didn’t look so heavy. But I had a great plastic surgeon, and he made me still look like me!