Most music fans have spent a considerable amount of time somewhat morbidly considering the song they wish to have played at their funeral, and Tom Jones is no different to the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, however, Jones has opted for an act with whom he has previously shared the stage.
When Jones landed his own television show in 1969, there was one name that he was desperate to collaborate with: the great Jerry Lee Lewis. Only a handful of years earlier, the Welshman had been in attendance to witness Lewis perform live in Cardiff, then, fast forward through a series of chart-topping years, and the duo were singing together in front of millions. Lewis, it goes without saying, is also behind the track Jones would like to have played at his funeral.
Jones’ show may have only run for three seasons, but it allowed him to perform alongside some of his heroes, many of whom would become greats in their own right. However, very few moments from the show would have provided Jones with more joy than performing with Lewis.
The song that converted him was the 1958 effort ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’. At that time, Jones was a talented teenager who fostered ambitions to become a professional recording artist, even though that usually doesn’t happen to someone from Pontypridd.
“I’d been a fan of Jerry Lee’s ever since I heard that song,” he once said about ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On’. “Elvis had come out with Heartbreak Hotel, which was the first major hit, and everybody was going, ‘Wow! He’s a freak of nature, a white guy singing like that.’ So when Whole Lotta Shakin’ came out that was it. I realise it must be a Southern thing – white people growing up with black people, and it was all rubbing off, you know what I mean?”
Jones also covered ‘End Of The Road’ by Lewis on his collaborative album with Jools Holland, released in 2004. However, it’s ‘Great Balls Of Fire’, that he elected as the song he wants to be played at his funeral during a conversation with NME. “It’s always been a favourite of mine,” he explained. “If someone wants me to sing something, I’ve always said: ‘If in doubt, do ‘Great Balls Of Fire’. But at my funeral, I’d have to play the original 1957 version released on Sun Records.”
‘Great Balls Of Fire’ was the follow-up single to ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On’, and topped the chart in the United Kingdom. It remains the only track by Lewis to have achieved this feat, and it evidently touched Jones to his very core. Watch the pair duet put on a rock ‘n’ roll medley below.