Singing ”Delilah” Triggers the ‘Tom Jones Effect’ in People Living with Dementia
People living with dementia in Wales noticeably benefit from singing Tom Jones’ 1968 hit Delilah, says a music therapists and dementia care specialist.
Swansea-based music therapist and professional singer / songwriter, Lorraine King, has worked with dementia patients for over 15 years. She offers music-based therapy to older people living with Alzheimer’s and other memory-loss conditions.
Lorraine claims the tune of Delilah – especially the catchy chorus – resonates deeply within ‘the Welsh cultural psyche’. For people with memory problems, singing the hard-hitting hit triggers the retrieval of previously lost words and sense of melody.
Lorraine said: ”Research from around the world shows that music and singing has an amazingly positive effect on patients with dementia. Music builds neurological bridges in the brain. By that can guide some patients out of the fog of dementia. Singing songs from the younger days of a dementia patient’s life helps with improvements in spoken lucidity and clarity. Music makes connections with the brain that stimulates communication and jump-starts linguistic stimulants.”
Lorraine claims that two of Tom Jones’ 1960s hits – Delilah and Green Green Grass of Home – are among the best musical stimulants for her dementia patients in Wales.
Lorraine explained: ”Since 1968, Tom Jones’ song Delilah has become part of the Welsh cultural psyche. The people that I help love a good sing-along and this often enhances their mood – especially when the song is associated with good memories of their younger days. This kind of ”Tom Jones-feel-good-effect” may possibly last for several days for some people with dementia.
Lorraine added: ”In Wales, it seems the song is hard-wired into a unique cultural place where the love of singing, community and rugby intersect. Delilah’s tune, especially the famous chorus, is easy to remember and sing. People with dementia benefit from singing it as a solo or in a choir. We see clear improvements in mood, expressiveness and use of language.”
3 songs that help people with dementia in Wales
Three song close to the heart of the Welsh people are most suitable for dementia music therapy, says Lorraine.
”Over the years, I’ve noticed that here in Wales, there are three songs that really connect by stimulating and enhancing responsiveness – the famous hymn Calon Lan and Tom Jones’ 1960s hits Green Green Grass of Home and Delilah.’
WRU’s stance on Delilah is ”a travesty”.
In February 2023, the Welsh Rugby Union banned live choir performance of the 1967 classic at all rugby games in Wales described the lyrics of Delilah as ”problematic” in the context of domestic abuse and murder references. The WRU had previously banned playing Delilah through all its public address systems across Wales.
Lorraine King said, ”While I understand some concerns around the lyrics, it’s a travesty that the lyrics of a 55-year-old song have been targeted ahead of targeting the main causes and culprits of issues around sexism at the Welsh Rugby Union today.”
Lorraine added: ”People living with dementia show noticeable, albeit temporary, improvements from singing.
“It would wrong to delete or avoid part of the musical soundtrack of their lives, just to comply with a banning order of a panicking and overwhelmed Welsh Rugby Union.”