Tom Jones can apparently count among his many fans one Elizabeth Windsor of London, England—known professionally as Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen. A 38-year-old mother of four when the alluring Mr. Jones made his first great splash in March 1965, Her Majesty bestowed upon him four decades later one of the highest honors to which a British subject can aspire. On March 29, 2006, Queen Elizabeth II made the Welsh sensation Tom Jones—now Sir Tom Jones—a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Who can know exactly what it was about Tom Jones that appealed to the Queen, or how closely she followed his career through its many interesting turns? We do know that many of her female contemporaries, however, were drawn in as much by his charisma and legendary sex appeal than by any particular musical gifts. Not that Tom Jones wasn’t a fine interpreter of popular song, but his greatest gift was as a live performer, and his live performances did tend to emphasize his charm, his dark good looks and his surprisingly funky dance moves as much as his singing. In his prime, in his form-fitting pants and shirts with plunging necklines, Tom Jones embodied an esthetic that was so easily lampooned in later years, that to lampoon it has itself become a tired cliché. Those who regard him as an object of fun would do well to revisit some of his 1960s and 70s television performances, which show him to be a powerfully appealing live entertainer.
As of 2008, the only pop stars of equal rank to Sir Tom are Paul McCartney, Elton John and Britain’s ageless answer to Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard. Further down the chivalric ladder for the time being—and not entitled to the honorific “Sir”— are Commanders Roger Daltrey and Eric Clapton and, even further down, the lowly Mick Jagger, as yet a mere Member of the Most Excellent Order.