Soul music has long been inextricably linked with black people, as a result of both their history and the outstanding vocal capabilities of many black performers. The nature of this soulful association is such that when a white person demonstrates similar tonal qualities, they are often assumed – quite reasonably – to be black. A recent example of this concept is English singer John Newman, whose full-throated, powerful voice bears similarities to the kind of robust timbre one might expect from a black singer.
It is with this in mind that we turn to the curious case of Tom Jones, whose signature baritone has contributed largely to his status as a sex symbol throughout his illustrious career. Born into a coal-mining family in South Wales, Jones’ ethnicity has been questioned for many years. Even at birth, his mother is said to have been asked if she had black ancestry, due to the thick curls and darker complexion her son possesses.
Now 75 years old, and tired of being told he is ‘just passing as white’, Jones is prepared to take a DNA test to definitively answer questions surrounding his heritage. The outcome of such a test is ultimately trivial, at least from a fan’s perspective, but it will be interesting to gauge the reaction of the music world, nonetheless.
Jones was also recently axed from the UK edition of The Voice, reportedly telling the BBC to ‘go fuck themselves’. You can’t fault his confidence.
Speaking of which, here’s Jones at his hip-shaking best back in 1968: