Tom Jones: Even at 80 the tiger still roars

Sir Thomas John Woodward is a handsome older gentleman. Full hair growth, short, gray curls, well-groomed Henriquatre beard, also in gray, steel-blue eyes. If he had been a candidate for cheerful job counseling, one might have worked earlier as a private scholar or golf club president.

Before the music career, he was a vacuum cleaner representative

You can hardly tell that he used to be an auxiliary worker, then a vacuum cleaner representative. And certainly not that Mister Woodward is a tiger, a very special kind of prey that no herb can cope with.

And yet it is so: Sir Thomas, this dignified gentleman, is a tiger. THE tiger par excellence. He is also called Tom Jones. He's celebrating his 80th birthday on June 7th, and it doesn't look like he has no teeth.

He wanted to go on tour again at 80

The man with the powerful voice and body language on the way to the old man? Hardly imaginable, but that's the way things are, also in rock and pop business, where even the Rolling Stones are getting older and look like this.

Tom Jones was supposed to start his big European tour now, but Corona has stopped it. After all, the singer and the majority of his audience – purely in terms of age – belong to the risk group, although it doesn't feel that far.

Albums and tours: No retirement in sight

He's still got it. The voice is still tremendous, and with his legendary hip swing he is no longer in full swing, but a little something is still going on that got his female fans excited a year ago at the castle concert in Ludwigsburg as in his best days .

Of course, it has calmed down over the decades. But he works continuously, goes on tours, writes songs, produces new albums, the last "Long Lost Suitcase". "It is important to me that I don't sit around and remember, but continue to create new memories every day. Today I'm a better singer and a better person, I definitely don't want to be 18 again," he said years ago to the "FAZ" .

Difficult start in life and an early wedding

It was also no easier when he was young – still Thomas John Woodward. Life was harder and more difficult. He was born in the Welsh industrial town of Pontypridd near Cardiff, which is a good place for pop and rock musicians. Chris Slade, drummer for Manfred Mann's Earth Band and AC / DC, and Phil "Wizzö" Campbell, guitarist for Motörhead, also come from Pontypridd.

Tom Jones' father was a miner, his mother a housewife, and money was scarce. At the age of 12, young Thomas fell ill with tuberculosis. Many years later, he said, "It was the worst time of my life. I was bedridden for two years." But he could sing and built his own stage at home with the living room curtains.

His voice and talent for making it happen quickly made him known in Pontypridd. At 15 he met a pretty girl at school, Melinda Rose Trenchard, who was one year younger, and married at 16; son Mark was born a month after the wedding. The young father fed his small family with jobs as a construction worker, glove cutter and representative for vacuum cleaners. He improved these meager earning opportunities with small gigs as singers, because he could sing better than others, much better.

Thomas John Woodward becomes "Tiger Tom"

From 1963 he was the singer of the troupe Tommy Scott and the Senators, which sounded rather high-spirited for a couple of boys from the Welsh working-class town. Tommy quickly realized that he had better chances as a soloist. From then on he called himself "Tiger Tom". Trademark: long sideburns, lush chest hair, shirt wide open, male-sultry look, tight pants, hip swing, in summer often swimming trunks with a tiger pattern. He wore them into old age until it seemed too stupid to him.

Tiger Tom moved to London. He met the manager Gordon Mills, who took him under the wing and made him Tomes Jones, the tiger has remained to this day. The first record "Chills and Fever" was still a flop, the second "It's Not Unusual" (1965) was already a number one hit.

It became an international sex symbol

Mills made Tom Jones a world star, a singer of the Elvis Presley format, mind you in times marked by super bands like the Beatles or the Stones. His songs "What's New, Pussycat?", "Thunderball" (theme song for the James Bond film "Feuerball"), "Green, Green Grass of Home", "Delilah" or "Help Yourself" became world hits. And "Sex Bomb" from 1999 became a personal world anthem by Tom Jones.

With this song, his audience, over 80 percent women of all ages, reliably freaked out. The tiger Tom Jones strutted across the stage with a swing of his hip, his chest hair soaked with sweat, when the panties and bras flew towards him. He has repeatedly fueled this image as a sex guru with small interviews, for example when he announced that he eats around 250 groupies a year. He never denied affairs with Mary Wilson of the Supremes and Marjorie Wallace, a Miss World. With the model Katherine Berkery, he is said to have a grown-up son.

Linda: Despite affairs, the love of his life

The naked truth is more banal, but somehow touching. There was still Melinda, the wife of Pontypridd, who now lived with him in the Los Angeles estate. She has remained the woman of his life and has often beaten him for his home adventures, as he later admitted.

In his autobiography, he writes that he felt no more for Linda than for Linda. She was the most important person in his life, the rest were a bit of fun and a few gimmicks. He doesn't think he could ever fall in love like that again. In 2016, Melinda Woodward died of cancer in L.A. after 59 years of marriage, Tom Jones sold the house and returned to England after over 40 years in the United States.

Next year comes the tour at 81

He wants to catch up on the 2020 tour next year, the dates have already been fixed. Then he is 81 and will definitely look dazzling. Years ago he helped a little, removed the wrinkles on the eyes and had the fat sucked out from under the cheeks. "I wear this beard to hide the scars," he told the "FAZ". "My father had one too, but he had no scars underneath."