Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions, and observations about the local scene. This week: the one, the only Tom Jones!
Of all the accolades Tom Jones has earned over the course of his career -- a Grammy, an MTV Video Music Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a song included in the soundtrack to Little Fockers -- none seems more impressive than the title bestowed upon him this year and last by Britain's Glamour magazine, that of Sexiest Man Alive. Granted, any rugged individual with a show-biz pedigree can be considered a contender, but the fact that Mr. Jones turns 73 this year makes this a huge step in the geriatric direction for luscious older gents everywhere.
Jones, once known as Thomas John Woodward, was a humble lad born to working-class parents in Wales' mining country. Since the '60s, he's achieved every pinnacle of success in the entertainment world: stints in Vegas, a television show, hit records, and the devotion of millions of female fans who itch to throw their panties at him.
Older, grayer, and slightly wizened, Jones still maintains his frantic pace and shows no sign of slowing down. A regular on the U.K. version of The Voice, he had the honor of singing at last year's Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace, part of an exhausting concert schedule that still keeps him on the road a good part of the year.
"I just want to sing until I drop," he told New Times during a recent phone conversation. "I'm not tired yet. I do hope I get tired before my voice gives out. I would hate to still want to do it but my voice won't let me. I hope I get tired and say, 'Oh, my God, I just can't do this anymore.' [laughs] Maybe I'll get like that when I'm old."
Jones is clearly as cool as ever. His latest album, Spirit in the Room, continues a musical makeover initiated with 2010's widely hailed Praise Blame. He pared back elaborate arrangements in favor of stripped-down instrumentation and a confessional intimacy that combines his remarkably brassy vocals with a vivid personal perspective. He taps into a wealth of material from some of the greatest songwriters, from Waits to Simon.
"My producer Ethan said to me, 'What if we do songs from songwriters that you like? You tell me songwriters that are interesting to you,'" the singer explains. "So it was people that I liked as songwriters. I also tried to look for songs that could be about me, so it would sound like me singing about it and sound real, like they're coming from me."
And what is it that drives a man who's been around and seen so much? "It's the same thing that drove me from day one," he insisted. "I wanted to try and sing everything that's inside me. Everything that I think about. I want to continually express myself. The fire has not gone out. The flame is very much lit, and in order to keep that fire burning, I have to do new things and sing new songs. I don't want to keep repeating myself."