This song, about a crime of passion, was a big hit for the Welsh singer Tom Jones early in his career. Written by Les Reed and Barry Mason, it was recorded on Decca; the sheet music was three shillings, and the single reached #2 in the BBC charts. The B-side was a song called "Smile."
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. (thanks, Alexander - London, England, for all above)
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.'"
Mason possibly also had in mind the biblical story of Samson and Delilah. The Old Testament hero Samson's exploits against the Philistines ended when his Philistine mistress Delilah persuaded him to cut off his hair.
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's 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.
A decade before he wrote this song, a teenaged Barry Mason was on vacation in Blackpool, England, where he met a girl named Delia who would break his heart and later inspire "Delilah."
"Delia didn't really fit the song, and then we thought of Delilah...a classic femme fatale," he told interviewer Mark Steyn. Luckily, the real romance didn't end in bloodshed. When fans heard the story of Mason's lost love, there was a short-lived campaign to track her down. But, explains Steyn in his book A Song for the Season, the songwriter's ex-wife, Sylvan Whittingham, stepped in and claimed Delia didn't exist and that she had actually co-written the song herself (she is widely credited as a co-writer on the song). Mason refused to comment.
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.'"