Welsh singer Sir Tom Jones’ black ancestry has always been a matter for rumor and conjecture, and now it seems that the 75-year-old has decided to take a DNA test to find out once and for all. For many years, the singer’s powerful voice had led to many radio listeners being surprised to discover that the singer was in fact white. The famous mop of curly hair – originally black – Tom Jones has always sported has also contributed to speculation as to his ancestry. According to Sir Tom, he was most frequently accused of “passing as white” when he first came to America.
“Because of my hair, a lot of black people still tell me I’m just passing as white.”
According to the Daily Mail, Tom Jones’ black heritage, as hypothetical as it might be, was most keenly questioned when his mother appeared to have suffered some kind of melanin irregularity. In an interview with the Times Magazine, Sir Tom related an incident when his mother came out in “dark patches” all over her skin, and doctors asked if there was anyone in the family who was black. Tom Jones has now become sufficiently curious to wish to find out for himself, and will reportedly get a private DNA test to determine whether or not he has any African ancestry. It would seem that after a lifetime of being questioned about it, his own curiosity has been piqued.
The question of Tom Jones’ black ancestry was once put to his mother, Freda
[Photo by Getty Images/Larry Ellis]Sir Tom was born into the most traditional of traditional Welsh families. His father, an Englishman, was a coalminer and his mother Freda was of mixed English and Welsh ancestry. There is nothing in his immediate family history to explain why so many have wondered whether Tom Jones’ black ancestry was a reality. It is far from impossible, however, that a DNA test would identify Tom Jones’ black forebears. The African community in Britain, especially in and around London and the port cities, is large and in some cases has existed for over 500 years. There is also the sheer amount of colonial activity and integration that took place during the long years of the British Empire to take into account.
Sir Tom has had a stellar career, both in America and the UK
[Photo by Getty Images/Frazer Harrison]But, some scientists say, there is an even more powerful reason to suppose that any DNA test will find for a black Tom Jones. Some geneticists have pointed out that the nature of the testing offered by private operators is scientifically suspect, and will allegedly reach conclusions on the basis of evidence so flimsy as to be “practically meaningless.” And even if this is not the case, it has been pointed out that a search that goes far enough into the past will necessarily provide evidence of connection to whomever the client wants. Steve Jones (no relation), emeritus professor of human genetics at University College London, says that the test is unlikely to prove exactly what Sir Tom is trying to establish.
“On a long trudge through history – two parents, four great-grandparents, and so on – very soon everyone runs out of ancestors and has to share them. As a result, almost every Briton is a descendant of Viking hordes, Roman legions, African migrants, Indian Brahmins, or anyone else they fancy.”
Sir Tom Jones’ black mop of curly hair has sometimes fuelled speculation
[Photo by Getty Images/Roger Jackson]A case in point would be the sheer number of people who can claim descent from Charlemagne or Genghis Khan. It seems that testing might see Tom Jones’ black ancestors not only identified, but joined by royal, famous and historical ones. So, is Sir Tom Jones black? Well, apart from the fact that it doesn’t really matter, it seems that we’re not likely to have any conclusive proof either way, regardless of what the DNA test says.
[Photo by Getty Images/Tristan Fewing]