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Delilah by Tom Jones

Album: DelilahReleased: 1968Charted:
  • This song is about a crime of passion: A man discovers that Delilah has been cheating on him, so when her lover leaves, he shows up at her door and stabs her to death. The lyric is mollified by a lilting rhythm and a catchy chorus that lends itself to singalong, leading to many situations where (often inebriated) crowds find themselves singing, "My my my Delilah..."
  • Is there a real Delilah? Depends who you ask. The official writer credits for this song go to the English team of Les Reed and Barry Mason, whose other credits include "Here It Comes Again" by The Fortunes, "The Last Waltz" by Engelbert Humperdinck, and "Kiss Me Goodbye" by Petula Clark (which also hit #15 US in 1968).

    However, Sylvan Mason, who was married to Barry when these songs were written, claims that she is a co-writer. We verified her claims when she showed us court records from her divorce settlement that prove her authorship. She has also been vetted by major newspapers that acknowledge her as a co-writer, and Tom Jones mentions her as a lyricist on the track in his autobiography.

    In 2001, Barry Mason told The UK newspaper The Sun that he based on the song (minus the bloodshed) on a girl he met on vacation in Blackpool, England when he was 15. They had a summer fling, but when it came time for her to return home to Llandudno in North Wales, she told Barry that she had a boyfriend, and it was over between them. Mason is quoted in the paper as saying, "I was shattered. I never shook it off and I became sick with jealousy and a whole lot of pain. She had dark hair, brooding eyes and she was really feisty. If there's a typical Welsh girl, she was the one."

    Mason said that her name was Delia, which was impossible to integrate into a song ("Why, why, why Delia" didn't work). A decade later, working with Reed, he got the idea to change her name to Delilah, and they wrote the famous song. "I just got more and more worked up with each line," he said. "I put my heart and soul into that song - and that's how 'Delilah' was born."

    The Sun embarked on a search for the mystery woman who inspired the song, asking readers to call in if they knew Delia from Llandudno. They called off the search when they heard from Sylvan Mason, who explained that she co-wrote the song and that there was no Delia. According to Sylvan, Les Reed had already written the chorus "Why, why, why Delilah," and the lyric is based on the 1954 musical Carmen Jones. "Les Reed's idea was to write a modern-day Samson and Delilah song but we got carried away and it ended up like Carmen Jones," she told WalesOnline, adding that the line "I was lost like a slave that no man could free" is a reference to Samson being tied up.

    Sylvan says they composed the song in two hours, and just flowed out. "It became about the guy's lover," she said. "She had been with someone else all night. He was jealous, and had probably been drinking - and then he stabbed her."

    Asked to respond, Barry Mason told The Sun, "I have no comment on the opinions of my former wife."
  • Explaining how this song came together, Sylvan Mason writes:

    "In 1968, as was normally the practice, my then husband Barry Mason, and musician Les Reed would get together, usually at Les's house in Woking round the beautiful polished wood, grand piano, or sometimes in a music room at Frances Day and Hunter, just round the corner from Denmark Street. FD&H were the overall publishers of Donna Music, Les' first publishing company. They would thrash out a few concepts for a song. Les would bring, or work on, a melody, and a title would usually be agreed on. Sometimes, Barry would take my titles to Les. One of them 'Don't Linger With Your Finger on the Trigger,' Les recorded himself, and appeared on Beat Club in Bremen to sing it.

    Their initial efforts would be put down on our portable tape recorder and Barry would bring this, either home to me, or to an office where we could work on it together. We would both have a clipboard to write down our ideas, and I would type the completed lyrics on my typewriter at home. Sometimes, we would be still completing lyrics and would take our clipboards to an upstairs room at Les' Wessex studios as the arrangement for the demo was being put down and recorded.

    In the case of 'Delilah,' which arrived, on a sunny morning, via the usual tape recorder, the rough tape was played to me in an office in Chappell Music, 19 St. George Street, where Barry's publishing company (Patricia Music) was based. On the first floor, there was a small room with a piano and a desk on the left hand side of the building (as you looked from the street). Access was via Managing Director Stuart Reid's Reception area.

    The melody had already been put down in entirety by Les Reed, who had also had the idea for the theme of the song, and a chorus that had two lines of 'Iy Yi Yi, Delilah.' Les had suggested that the song be based on the story of a modern Samson and Delilah, and Barry and I set to work.

    Finding a way to put 'Lulling Samson to sleep in her lap, Delilah alerted the Philistine rulers who waited in the shadows to capture him. They sheared Samson's hair and, in his newly weakened state, bound him, gouged out his eyes, and forced him to grind grain in the prison at Gaza' into a modern context, was not easy, though I must admit, later on Leonard Cohen did manage to do an amazing job with 'Hallelujah' in 1984. It was not an easy task for him either. He apparently 'wrote around 80 draft verses for 'Hallelujah,' with one writing session at the Royalton Hotel in New York where he was reduced to sitting on the floor in his underwear, banging his head on the floor.'

    As the song progressed, after struggling a bit, we decided to switch over to making it about the storyline in the 1954 film of Carmen Jones which I had seen as a young girl and which was based on the 1943 stage production of the same name by Oscar Hammerstein II, which was inspired by an adaptation of the 1845 Prosper Mérimée novella Carmen, and in which Harry Belafonte, engulfed and inflamed with passion, jealousy and rage, strangles the adulteress Carmen (Dorothy Dandridge) as she mocks him. Cradling her dead body, he sings, 'String Me High on a Tree, so that soon I will be, with my darling, my baby, my Carmen' as he shuts her eyes, and the Military Police enter the room through the door, and take him away.

    The only line that remained from the original attempt at the Bible story was 'But I was lost like a Slave that no man can free' which still seemed to fit the new story angle.

    It was one of those lyrics that just flowed after the original idea or theme has taken hold. The same thing happened with 'Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)' for which I wrote most of the lyrics with Tony Macaulay in late 1969. Both were completed with no re-writes in under two hours."
  • Tom Jones went on to be knighted. A little known fact about this recording is that another future knight of the realm sang on it, Elton John. According to Philip Norman's biography Sir Elton, times were hard for the then-aspiring superstar, and he took whatever session work he could get, becoming in this case an indistinguishable voice in the chorus behind the melodramatic Tom Jones #2 smash hit single "Delilah."
  • "Delilah" was also recorded by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Connie Francis, Ray Conniff, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Platters and The Ventures. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander - London, England, for above 2
  • Lyricist Barry Mason was asked in an interview with the International Songwriters Association's Songwriter magazine whether he was often inspired by a theme when writing songs. Mason replied: "Normally, it would be a line, especially a title line, that would be the inspiration for me. For 'Delilah,' I was inspired by 'Jezebel,' the old Frankie Laine hit. I used to love 'story songs' when I was a kid. I did a thing called 'Drive Safely Darlin.'"
  • P. J. Proby, and American singer who had a few minor hits in the '60s ("Hold Me," "I Can't Make It Alone") was the first to record this song, but he did it under protest and refused to release it, so it went to Tom Jones.

    In Proby's original version, the chorus is "Eye Yi Yi Delilah" - Tom Jones changed it to "My My My Delilah."

    Proby's rendition surfaced in 2008 when it was included on the compilation The Best of The EMI Years.
  • Jones recalled to The Mail On Sunday February 6, 2011: "I remember when I first heard 'Delilah,' I thought: 'This is just a comedy record.' My manager said: 'Yes, but we want you to do it seriously.' When you first hear it, you think it's a rip-roaring, we-are-the-champions kind of number. But it's actually about a man killing a woman.

    It's recorded in the style of an old drinking song – you can imagine all the tankards waving in the air in an old pub. Delilah is always great to perform on stage – when the crowd hears the brass at the beginning, they start going for it before I even open my mouth."
  • The song is popular with supporters of Stoke City Football Club who have adopted it as their anthem. The story goes that the song was chosen when a group of Stoke City fans were having an alcohol-infused sing-song in a pub. When police officers asked them not to sing any songs with swear words, "Delilah" came on the jukebox and the rest is history.
  • After Tom Jones performed the song before Wales' historic rugby victory over England in 1999, Welsh fans adopted it as their unofficial anthem. The Welsh Rugby Union now plays the song in Millennium Stadium before matches.
  • In 2014, Dafydd Iwan, folk singer and former president of Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales), called for Welsh rugby supporters to stop singing this at games because it trivializes violence against women. Tom Jones responded in a BBC interview: "It's not a political statement. This woman is unfaithful to him and [the narrator] just loses it... It's something that happens in life." He added: "If it's going to be taken literally, I think it takes the fun out of it."

    Iwan then told The Guardian he wasn't trying to get the song banned, but he was trying to get people to think about the songs they sing. "All I can hope for – and perhaps that hope will now be partly fulfilled – is that next time you belt out this very singable song, you spare a thought for the poor woman who 'laughs no more,' and avoid feeling any sympathy for the poor sod who killed her because he 'just couldn't take any more.'"

    The song's co-writer Sylvan Mason weighed in on the controversy, telling the UK Telegraph, "Don't blame Delilah for all this – blame beer. The reason there is more domestic violence after rugby matches is because men have been drinking... It's not anything to do with Delilah."
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Comments: 15

On March 24th 1968, "Delilah" by Tom Jones peaked at #2 {for 3 weeks} on the United Kingdom's Singles chart...
The first two weeks it was at #2, the #1 record for both those weeks was "Lady Madonna" by the Beatles; and for its third week at #2, "Congratulations" by Cliff Richard was in the top spot...
The Tom Jones' record that preceded "Delilah" on the UK charts was his "I'm Coming Home"; it also peaked at #2, and who keep it out of the #1 spot, none other but those rascals, the Beatles, with "Hello Goodbye"!
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Sylvan - London
Why not feel sympathy for a bloke driven to it by a twotiming b---h?Mark - London
On April 21st 1968, Tom Jones performed "Delilah" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
One month earlier on March 10th, 1968 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #97; and on June 2nd it peaked at #15 (for 1 week) and it also spent 15 weeks on the Top 100...
It reached #1 in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland...
R.I.P. Mr. Sullivan (1901 - 1974) and Mr. Jones, born Thomas Jones Woodward, will celebrate his 74th birthday in two months on June 7th.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
The single remains one of only a handful of Jones hits that is never taken out of his constantly evolving live concerts sets each year due to it's popularity and identification with him. Jones performed the song at 2011's "Concert For The Queen" in Wembley Stadium, which was broadcast as TV Special in the US (several other performers including Elton John appeared)Thomas Leonard - Pittsburgh, Pa, Pa
In the UK, an album of the same name featuring mostly new compositions of middle of the road ballads and pop numbers was issued to promote the single and was a Top 10 success. In the US Jones record label instead attached the Delilah single to a collection of R&B covers Jones did for a UK only album (13 Smash Hits) that had never been issued in the states. The "new" album The Tom Jones Fever Zone became Jones first US Top 20 album and first of nine certified Gold Albums for a million plus US Sales. It included Jones' covers of Wilson Pickett, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and James Brown, plus a blues heavy reworking of Willie Nelson's country hit Funny How Time Slips Away.Thomas Leonard - Pittsburgh, Pa, Pa
According to the liner notes in the re-issue of the corresponding Delilah album by London Records, the single hit #1 in nine different countries in addition to charting ay #2 in the UK and #15 during a lengthy near 5 month chart run in the US.Thomas Leonard - Pittsburgh, Pa, Pa
Jones recalled in interviews in the 90s that when he debuted the song on US television on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1968 he was asked to change a line in the second verse "At break of day as that man went away I was waiting" because it indicated that the "man" Jones' character had seen in the windows with his girlfriend Delilah had stayed over night with her, something taboo for the conservative Sullivan Show producers. Jones remarked in interviews that he questioned why the producers were upset about a random lyric indicating the Delilah character's partner in infidelity had stayed over night when the entire song is about infidelity, stalking, and murder but to no avail so he changed the lyric to get the much needed TV exposure.Thomas Leonard - Pittsburgh, Pa, Pa
The song "The Way" by Fastball has a very similar sound to this song.Larry - Wayne, Pa
NOTHING, repeat NOTHING, can touch the Sensational Alex Harvey's version of this. It's so different to TJ's. Find it, download it, love it. You'll thank me.Jon - Great Yarmouth, United Kingdom
Delilah, the ULTIMATE karaoke song.. Love it!

And yes Thomas, "Nothing says success like having women take off their panties in public and throw them at you." truer words have never been spoken :)
Ade - Dudley, United Kingdom
Nothing says success like having women take off their panties in public and throw them at you.Thomas - Somerville, Al
Flogging Molly have been playing a rather funny version of this to wrap up their shows fot years. It's recorder n their live demo "Alive behind the green door".Mark - Veldhoven, Netherlands
I'm soooo not a big fan of Tom Jones, but I just love the way he sings this song!Mary - Phoenix, Az
Good song. and again the first comment.Bianca Sanchez - Alburquerque, Nm
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