Delilah (Tom Jones song)

"Delilah" is a song recorded by Welsh singer Tom Jones in December 1967. The lyrics were written by Barry Mason, and the music by Les Reed, who also contributed the title and theme of the song. It earned Reed and Mason the 1968 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.[1]

Delilah - Tom Jones.jpg
Single by Tom Jones
from the album Delilah
B-side"Smile Your Blues Away"
ReleasedFebruary 1968
Recorded20 December 1967
StudioDecca Studios, London, England
GenrePop, murder ballad
LabelDecca (UK/Ireland)
Parrot (North America)
Songwriter(s)Les Reed
Barry Mason
Producer(s)Peter Sullivan
Tom Jones singles chronology
"I'm Coming Home"
"Help Yourself"

Music and lyricsEdit

Although the song is a soulful number set in triple metre, the underlying genre may be considered to be a power ballad. Produced by Peter Sullivan, Jones's version features a big-band accompaniment set to a flamenco rhythm. The pitch of the final note is A4. Flamenco was a surprising choice, since there is no reference to Spain anywhere in the song. Possibly, it was because of similarities to the plot of "Carmen", in which Don José stabs Carmen to death when she tells him she is leaving him for another man.

The song tells the story of a man who passes his girlfriend's window and sees her inside making love to another man. He waits outside all night, and then confronts her in the morning, only to have her laugh in his face. He stabs her to death, and then waits for the police to come break down the door and arrest him. The lyrics unfold from the killer's point of view, and are filled with his, often contradictory, emotions. He speaks of Delilah in possessive terms, but also refers to himself as her "slave." He asks his dead girlfriend to "forgive" him, but still clearly sees himself as having been wronged by her.

When Jones performed the song on The Ed Sullivan Show,[when?] the censors insisted that the line "At break of day when the man drove away" be changed to "At break of day I was still 'cross the way", as the original version implied he had spent the night with Delilah. Jones later described the change as "such bullshit".[2][3]

In a two-year court case in The High Court of Justice, 1983 -M- No.1566 , Barry Mason's ex-wife Sylvan Whittingham, the daughter of Bond film Thunderball screenwriter, Jack Whittingham, claimed she had written half the lyrics of "Delilah" and several other songs. The legal battle was settled out of court in 1986.[4][5]

Chart performanceEdit

Tom Jones' recording reached No. 1 in the charts of several countries, including Germany and Switzerland.[6] It reached No 2 in the British charts in March 1968 and was the sixth-best selling single of that year.[7] The US Billboard chart records its highest position as 15.[8]


Weekly chartsEdit

Chart (1968) Peak
Australia (Go-Set)[9] 3
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[10] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[11] 1
Canada (RPM)[12] 5
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[13] 1
French Singles Chart[14] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[15] 1
Italian Singles Chart (Musica e Dischi)[16] 11
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[17] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[18] 1
New Zealand (Listener)[19] 2
Norway (VG-lista)[20] 2
Singapore Singles Chart[16] 6
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[21] 1
Spain (AFYVE)[16] 2
Sweden (Kvällstoppen)[22] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[23] 1
UK Singles (OCC)[24] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[25] 15
West Germany (Official German Charts)[26] 1

Year-end chartsEdit

Chart (1968) Rank
Switzerland [27] 5
UK [28] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[29] 66

Certifications and salesEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Germany 200,000[30]
United Kingdom
1968 physical sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[32]
sales since 2006
Silver 200,000 
Yugoslavia 200,000[33]
Worldwide 5,000,000[31]

  Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Miscellaneous usesEdit


Welsh rugby fans have sung "Delilah" as an unofficial anthem since at least as early as the 1970s; it was referred to in the lyrics of one of the verses of Max Boyce's "Hymns and Arias": "We sang 'Cwm Rhondda' and 'Delilah', damn they sounded both the same". Tom Jones performed it before Wales's rugby victory over England at Wembley Stadium in 1999. As of 2003, the Welsh Rugby Union played the song in Millennium Stadium before matches; the words to the song were shown on the big screens and the crowd sang along.[34]

In 2014, Dafydd Iwan, former president of the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru, called for Welsh rugby supporters to stop singing "Delilah" at matches, asserting that the song "trivialise[s] the idea of murdering a woman". Jones dismissed Iwan's claims, stating: "I don’t think [singers] are really thinking about it … If it’s going to be taken literally, I think it takes the fun out of it."[35] Prior to the 2016 Six Nations Championship rugby tournament, Welsh MP Chris Bryant claimed that the song was about the murder of a prostitute, and requested that the song not be sung by Welsh rugby fans as the lyrics glorify violence towards women.[36]

Association FootballEdit

Supporters of Stoke City adopted "Delilah" as their club anthem in the 1990s. It was adopted by the fans after a supporter was heard singing it in a local pub. Some of the song's original lyrics were adapted for the football terraces,[37] but the essence of the song remained the same.[38]


The song featured in the 1990 film Edward Scissorhands.[39] In the 2005 film Romance and Cigarettes, the original recording plays on a jukebox while Christopher Walken sings along and mimes the action. In the 2013 film American Hustle, the song plays at a bar while Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner sing along. The chorus of the song was referenced in the movie Hercules Returns.[citation needed] The song is featured prominently in the film Dream Horse.


In the "Stage Fright" episode of Only Fools and Horses, Tony Angelino, the Singing Dustman, is seen performing the song during his performance at the Down by the Riverside Club. As Tony suffers from rhotacism, he makes minor adaptations to the lyrics to eliminate R sounds.

In the "Homer the Heretic" episode of The Simpsons, Homer sings the chorus while showering, seemingly pleased with himself for getting out of going to church.[citation needed]

In the 14th episode of Raising Hope, "What Up, Cuz?", the song appears in a flashback showing the young Virginia Chance with her cousin Delilah.[citation needed]

In the first episode of the 2012 British comedy series Citizen Khan, Khan sings the song over the mosque speakers, much to the amusement of several fellow worshippers.[citation needed]


According to Philip Norman's 2001 biography of Elton John, John provided background vocals on this song.[citation needed]

On 4 June 2012 Jones performed the song for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert.[40]


  1. ^ Lister, David, Pop ballads bite back in lyrical fashion, The Independent, 28 May 1994
  2. ^ Jones, Tom (October 8, 2015). Over the Top and Back: The Autobiography. Penguin Books Limited. ISBN 9780718180706 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Malone, Aubrey (August 9, 2012). Still Rockin' - Tom Jones, A Biography. Y Lolfa. ISBN 9781847715814 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "Barry Mason obituary". the Guardian. April 26, 2021.
  5. ^ McCarthy, James (February 20, 2016). "'It's a ****ing hit!' Delilah writer after penning Tom Jones' smash". WalesOnline. “The Delilah lyrics were written in an office belonging to Stuart Reid, of Chappel Music, at 19 St George Street, London, from a tape recording of the melody and chorus line of ‘Aye, aye, aye Delilah’,” Sylvan said.
  6. ^ "Tom Jones - Delilah". Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Chart Archive". Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  8. ^ "Billboard - Music Charts, News, Photos & Video". Billboard. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Go-Set Australian charts - 10 April 1968".
  10. ^ "Tom Jones – Delilah" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  11. ^ "Tom Jones – Delilah" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  12. ^ "Song title 531 - Delilah". April 22, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-04-22.
  13. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
  14. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. 25 May 1968. p. 51. Retrieved 5 June 2021 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. 27 April 1968. p. 53. Retrieved 5 June 2021 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ a b c "Hits of the World". Billboard. 8 June 1968. p. 52. Retrieved 5 June 2021 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Tom Jones" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  18. ^ "Tom Jones – Delilah" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  19. ^ "flavour of new zealand - NZ listener charts".
  20. ^ "Tom Jones – Delilah". VG-lista.
  21. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website - SA Charts 1965 - 1989 Acts (J)".
  22. ^ "Låtarna från Kvällstoppen 30 juli 1968". NostalgiListan.
  23. ^ "Tom Jones – Delilah". Swiss Singles Chart.
  24. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  25. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 369. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  26. ^ " – Tom Jones – Delilah". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved March 2, 2020. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON Tom Jones"
  27. ^ "Swiss Year-End Charts 1968 -".
  28. ^ "Sixties City - Pop Music Charts - Every Week Of The Sixties".
  29. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1968/Top 100 Songs of 1968".
  30. ^ "Cash Box - Germany" (PDF). Cashbox. 11 May 1968. p. 62. Retrieved 13 November 2020 – via World Radio History.
  31. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1985). Million selling records from the 1900s to the 1980s : an illustrated directory. Arco Pub. p. 264. ISBN 0668064595. Released on 23 February 1968, it sold well over half a million in Britain .... global sales totalled five million
  32. ^ "British single certifications – Tom Jones – Delilah". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  33. ^ Prevignano, Daniele (6 June 1970). "Yugoslav Record industry Expands In Many Directions - Plants, Studios". Billboard. p. 76. Retrieved 13 November 2020 – via Google Books.
  34. ^ "WHY, WHY, WHY BAN DELILAH?; Tom Hit Is Sexist". The Mirror. April 2003. Retrieved 2011-03-21.
  35. ^ Michaels, Sean. "Tom Jones says critics shouldn't take Delilah so literally". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  36. ^ "Delilah? We just can't take rugby fans singing it any more, says MP". The Guardian. 5 February 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  37. ^ "Why Stoke fans sing 'Delilah'". FourFourTwo. 25 March 2016. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  38. ^ "Stoke City fans back Tom Jones's Delilah to top charts". BBC. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  39. ^ Burton, Tim (1990), Edward Scissorhands, 20th Century Fox
  40. ^ "BBC One - The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, The Diamond Jubilee Concert, Tom Jones performs a medley of hits". BBC. Retrieved 18 April 2019.

External linksEdit