Here’s the meaning behind the lyrics of the Tom Jones song “Green, Green Grass Of Home.” Welsh crooner Tom Jones first made a name for himself in the mid-1960s with the release of songs like “It’s Not Unusual” and “What’s New Pussycat” that later saw him scoop a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. He followed up with the song “Green, Green Grass Of Home” in 1966 which sold over a million copies and reached No. 1 in the UK music charts, staying there for seven weeks. It was a success in the U.S. too, peaking at No. 11 on the Billboard chart and selling 1.22 million copies.
Considering Tom Jones is famous for his Welsh roots, it seems likely that “Green, Green Grass Of Home” would be a reference to the green, green valleys of Wales. On the contrary, the song was penned by Nashville songwriter Curly Putman – who also wrote country classic “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” – and has a far different meaning. Also, Tom Jones was by no means the first artist to record the song. Country singers Johnny Darrell, Porter Wagoner, and Bobby Bare all recorded “Green, Green Grass Of Home” before Jones did and it was a version recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis that inspired Jones to record his own take. After Jones, it was also recorded by artists including Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley.
According to Curly Putman, part of the inspiration behind writing “Green, Green Grass Of Home” came after watching director John Huston’s 1950 film noir The Asphalt Jungle which follows a group of men attempting to pull off an ill-fated heist. One of those characters is a man named Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden, The Godfather) who got roped into the heist because he wants to get out of the city and buy back the Kentucky horse farm he grew up on. By the end of the film, Dix has been gravely wounded and is on the run from the law. In the final scene, he makes it back to his old family farm – a rural idyll with rolling hills and a picturesque white farmhouse – but dies from his gunshot wound.
It was The Asphalt Jungle’s depiction of Dix’s childhood home that inspired Curly Putman to pen the lyrics that describe the protagonist’s hometown with its green grass, old oak tree and house with cracked paint. Like the film it was inspired by, “Green, Green Grass Of Home” has a sad ending too – a lyrical plot twist, some might say.
While the first couple of verses of “Green, Green Grass Of Home” sound like they’re describing the protagonist’s homecoming, the final verse reveals the singer is daydreaming and he’s actually locked in a prison cell on death row awaiting execution. The final line of the song, “Yes, they'll all come to see me, In the shade of that old oak tree, As they lay me 'neath the green, green grass of home” is a reference to the protagonist’s burial in his hometown after his execution.