22: You Don’t Mess Around With Jim (Jim Croce)

Album: You Don’t Mess Around With Jim
Artist: Jim Croce
Year: 1972

1. You Don’t Mess Around with Jim
2. Tomorrow’s Gonna Be a Brighter Day
3. New York’s Not My Home
4. Hard Time Losin’ Man
5. Photographs and Memories
6. Walkin’ Back to Georgia
7. Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels)
8. Time in a Bottle
9. Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy)
10. Box #10
11. A Long Time Ago
12. Hey Tomorrow

A common crack about Jim Croce is that people are surprised to find out he died when he was 30 years-old because he looked like he was approaching 50 at the time. I think he also looked this age because his songwriting often sounded like a guy approaching middle age as well. While his songs are generally simple, the lyrics often carry a mature bent generally not seen in those in their 20’s. The guy did have a hard life, as thanks to his record company he died in debt despite his success. Apparently, his plan was to quit music after his last tour because he was constantly homesick for his wife and son. My father was on his way to see him in concert when Croce’s plane crashed.

Croce’s velvet voice carries his ballads. Time in a Bottle, written for his son, is one of the sweetest songs I’ve ever heard.  New York’s Not My Home is one of the more earnest city mouse/country mouse tales out there. Operator is corny but also one of the better songs about a conversation with an operator. Considering I’ve never had a conversation with an operator (and now never will), it shows how timeless Croce’s writing really is.

He adds a bit of twang for his more up-tempo country songs, such as You Don’t Mess Around with Jim and Rapid Roy. My favorite of these is Box #10.

5 thoughts on “22: You Don’t Mess Around With Jim (Jim Croce)”

  1. The man’s voice is just angelic. Love the songs you point out, and I have to give a shout out to Photographs and Memories as well, but I’ve never been very impressed with You Don’t Mess Around With Jim or Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

    1. I like Leroy Brown’s energy and loved the song as a kid, but it’s really empty and repetitive. Croce’s songwriting strength definitely lies with his ballads. I enjoy Photographs and Memories as well; in fact, it’s been in my head for the past two days.

  2. If you hadn’t mentioned Croce’s age, I would have. There isn’t a single photo of him that looks under 30, but that’s as old as he ever was.

    I had no idea “Time in a Bottle” was about his son. It seems extremely obvious now.

    1. I had no idea either, but in looking at the lyrics I still don’t see where I missed anything pointing specifically to it being about a child. This line makes me think a significant other…

      “I’ve looked around enough to know
      That you’re the one I want to go
      Through time with”

      1. I wonder if he wrote it more specifically about his son at first but then generalized it a bit to make it more accessible to audiences, i.e. “this song is about me!”

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