At the grand-old age of 73, Sir Tom Jones is set to perform in Qatar for the first time. The man known by many as simply 'The Voice' is at the peak of his career, looking and sounding like a man 20-years-younger.
After ditching the hair dye and going back to the music that shows off his emotive, power vocals, he’s enjoying one of the most successful periods of his five-decade spanning career. His two most recent albums both reaching the Top 10 in the UK album charts, with 2011's Praise & Blame entering the chart at No.2.
Q: Sir Tom, would you agree you’re in the best form playing live than you’ve ever been?
A: Yes. I change my set as we go along and it all depends on what we’ve recorded. Of course fans want to see the old hits too. And I’ll never get bored of playing those and seeing their reaction.
Q: Do you regret going too far down that ‘entertainer’ road with your fun songs in the past?
A: Sometimes. But what’s done is done. And of course, at the time it was right. Even Sex Bomb at the time was right, as it was for my Reload album, which was very successful for me. When you hear something like that you just have to do it – it was screaming out to me to sing it.
Q: You have been married to your childhood sweetheart Linda since 1957, what’s the secret of your lasting marriage?
A: She’s great. She doesn’t get involved with the showbiz and tells me straight. She says she married Tommy Woodward [Sir Tom’s real name], not Tom Jones. She’s the only person who answers me back!
Q: You were great friends with Elvis Presley. How was that relationship?
A: When I first met Elvis he said “How the hell do you sing like that?” And I said “Partly by listening to you.” He was thrilled that I had been influenced by him.
Q: What about other famous encounters?
A: Well Frank Sinatra was fantastic. He said: “Tom, you could be jazzier. You could do big swing numbers.” I understood what he was saying because I did Fly Me To The Moon and he really liked it. He reckoned I should go more down that road. But I told him that l liked to sing it all. I like to sing whatever I feel like it. I don’t want to be restricted.
I think the bigger the star, the nicer they were. It’s the ones who are half way up the ladder or think they are bigger than they are who give you a hard time when you meet them. It’s almost like they’re scared to be nice or give you advice.
Q: Did you realise what a statement it would be when you stopped dyeing your hair?
A: At the time, no. I’d been dyeing my hair so long, didn’t really think about it. But reviews would mention “Tom Jones with his dyed, permed hair”. I said: “I’ve never permed my hair, my hair is naturally curly… but I am dyeing it.”
At Christmas, or when I was on holiday, I wouldn’t dye it and but it would be grey in funny places so I didn’t particularly like it. But in the end I let it grow and grow – it came out white and I thought it looked pretty good. So I stripped the colour out.
I thought “You can’t be 70 years old and have black hair.” Maybe Ronald Reagan did, even though he always swore he didn’t dye his hair. But the older you get, the more false it looks. It’s a lot easier not to have to dye it.
Q: Do you ever see a day when you won’t sing?
A: I dread that day because singing is life to me. I’ve never known life without singing -except when I was sick and bedridden for two years between the ages of 12 and 14. But even then I learnt to play the ukulele.
I started to paint so that took over. But once I was able to sing again, the painting went south, and I concentrated on the voice again.
Tom Jones plays Intercontinental Doha Beach on 17 September. Tickets from the Intercontinental Hotel, Virgin Megastores (Landmark & Villaggio malls) and Crepaway.