Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Tom Jones - "She's a Lady" (1971)
Written by Paul Anka
Produced by Gordon Mills
45: "She's a Lady"/"My Way" (Parrot)
LP: Tom Jones Sings She's a Lady (Parrot)
Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#2); easy listening (#4)
Tom Jones's biggest hit of the early seventies distinguished itself by serving up the phrases "she always knows her place" and "she's never in the way" during the glory years of women's lib. Even so, its high ranking on the easy listening charts indicated that the minor-key sizzler had a sizable female listenership. Or did that ranking reflect older generation values?
Composer Paul Anka apparently regretted it. From Jones's Over the Top and Back: The Autobiography (2015), p. 298: "Paul Anka wrote ['She's a Lady'] especially for me, scribbling the lyrics on the back of a TWA menu, somewhere between New York and London, and adding the tune in an hour and a half at a piano later. Afterwards he'll declare that he hates the song--will claim that it's his least favorite number of any that he wrote and that he thinks it's chauvinistic. Maybe he's right. Actually, definitely he's right. But it was a hit for me--a dance floor number in the earliest days of disco and the last significant hit I would have in America for a number of years."
In his My Way: An Autobiography (2014), Anka expressed his view as follows: "I dislike 'She's a Lady' more than anything else I've written. I'm not saying I don't have a chauvinistic side, but not like that. Still, I wanted to make it as realistic as possible, and Tom Jones is swaggering and brash as a Welsh coal miner in a pub on Saturday night."
The 2013 Paul Anka Duets album includes a version of the song with Jones, featuring a remodeled first verse sung by Anka. Instead of "Well, she's all you'd ever want/She's the kind I like to flaunt and take to dinner/But she always knows her place/She's got style, she's got grace, she's a winner," he sings, "Oh she knows what love's about/She turns me inside out, that's not easy/She loves me through and through/She knows what to do and how to tease me." Verse two, though, about never being "in the way" gets a faithful, unaltered delivery by Jones. Listen: "She's a Lady"