Delilah (Tom Jones song)
|Single by Tom Jones|
|from the album Delilah|
|Genre||Pop, murder ballad|
Barry Mason and Sylvan Whittingham
|Tom Jones singles chronology|
"Delilah" is a song recorded by Welsh singer Tom Jones in December, 1967. It was originally recorded by P. J. Proby in late November, 1967. Proby hated the song and refused to include it on his album Believe It Or Not, which was being compiled and recorded at the time. Proby's original version was released on the CD The Best Of The EMI Years ..., in 2008. The lyrics were written by Barry Mason and his wife at the time, Sylvan Whittingham, and the music by Les Reed, who also contributed the title and theme of the song. It earned Reed and Mason the 1968 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.
It reached No. 1 in the charts of several countries, including Germany and Switzerland. It reached No 2 in the British charts in March 1968 and was the sixth-best selling single of that year. The US Billboard chart records its highest position as 15.
|German Singles Chart||1|
|Swiss Singles Chart||1|
|Irish Singles Chart||1|
|UK Singles Chart||2|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||2|
|Austrian Top 40||3|
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||5|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||15|
|Finnish Singles Charts||1|
Music and lyrics
Although the song is a soulful number set in triple metre, the underlying genre may be considered to be a power ballad in the British ballad tradition. Jones's version features a big-band accompaniment set to a flamenco rhythm. The pitch of the final note is A4.
Jones narrates the song from the point of view of someone who perceives himself as a betrayed lover and who spies a woman in silhouette on a window blind as she makes love to another man. Although he realises that she is no good for him, he calls her 'his'. At the break of day, waiting until her paramour leaves, he knocks on the door with a knife, which she opens, only to laugh in his face. He then stabs her to death. He then waits for the police come to break down the door and take him away.
The song has been covered by other artists, including a reggae cover by Horace Andy; , the goth rock band Inkubus Sukkubus on their album Wild, the Irish American punk band Flogging Molly on their live album Alive Behind the Green Door, the Italian operatic pop group Il Volo on their album Grande Amore, and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, whose single reached No. 7 in the UK chart in 1975. During the summer 1968 edition of the musical contest Cantagiro, the Italian singer Jimmy Fontana sang it with the title "La nostra favola" (the Italian translation changed the meaning of the original lyrics). Country Dick Montana recorded it with the Pleasure Barons as part of a Tom Jones medley on their live album Pleasure Barons Live in Las Vegas. It was covered in 1978 by Filipino singer and artist Sam Sorono (1950–2008) on his Sings Tom Jones' Greatest Hits LP album on EMI Records. Austrian singer Peter Alexander recorded a German cover on his 1985 album Ein Abend Mit Dir. In 1988 "Delilah" was covered by Paddy Goes To Holyhead. This version can be found on the 4-CD box The Hannover Sessions with Sweet. The Finnish rock band Leningrad Cowboys also performed a version of this song on the live album Total Balalaika. American band Faith No More covered a snippet of the song during their Second Coming Tour.
Welsh rugby fans have sung "Delilah" as an unofficial anthem since at least as early as the 1970s; it was referred to in the lyrics of one of the verses of Max Boyce's "Hymns and Arias": "We sang 'Cwm Rhondda' and 'Delilah', damn they sounded both the same". Tom Jones performed it before Wales's rugby victory over England at Wembley Stadium in 1999. As of 2003, the Welsh Rugby Union played the song in Millennium Stadium before matches; the words to the song were shown on the big screens and the crowd sang along.
In 2014, Dafydd Iwan, former president of the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru, called for Welsh rugby supporters to stop singing "Delilah" at matches, asserting that the song "trivialise[s] the idea of murdering a woman". Jones dismissed Iwan's claims, stating: "I don’t think [singers] are really thinking about it … If it’s going to be taken literally, I think it takes the fun out of it." Prior to the 2016 Six Nations Championship rugby tournament, Welsh MP Chris Bryant claimed that the song was about the murder of a prostitute, and requested that the song not be sung by Welsh rugby fans as the lyrics glorify violence towards women. Co-writer Sylvan Whittingham rejected the claim, saying: "The reason there is more domestic violence after rugby matches is because men have been drinking... It's not anything to do with Delilah."
Supporters of Stoke City adopted "Delilah" as their club anthem in the 1990s. It was adopted by the fans after a supporter was heard singing it in a local pub. Some of the song's original lyrics were adapted for the football terraces, but the essence of the song remained the same.
The song featured in the 1990 film Edward Scissorhands. In the 2005 film Romance and Cigarettes, the original recording plays on a jukebox while Christopher Walken sings along and mimes the action. In the 2013 film American Hustle, the song plays at a bar while Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner sing along. The chorus of the song was referenced in the movie Hercules Returns.
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- Michaels, Sean. "Tom Jones says critics shouldn't take Delilah so literally". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
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- Victoria Ward, "Ex-wife of Delilah songwriter rubbishes claim that song incites violence", Daily Telegraph, 7 February 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2019
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