In 1972 Jim Croce broke into the Top 10 with his first single, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim the title track to his debut LP. He had two more Top 40 songs and then hit the top with Bad Bad Leroy Brown from his 2nd album, Life & Times. One year after Jim peaked in the Top 10 with his single, he was gone, having died in a plane crash in September 1973, a promising career over just like that. The fact that his career ever existed was a miracle to begin with.
Jim met his wife, Ingrid during his college days and they formed a folk trio, Jim & Ingrid Croce, which was also the title of their album, released on Capitol Records in early 1969. The non-success of that album coupled with the grueling road gigs caused Jim to quit the music business and start to make a ‘sensible’ living back in Philadelphia. He got a job in construction, a job as a truck driver and even enlisted in the Army. But the people Jim met stirred up his imagination so much, they gave him song ideas for years and he never fully stopped writing new music. In fact Jim became known as ‘that guy who writes about tough yet flawed characters’. Write what you know! [Who said that?]
So here’s Jim with a new opportunity in late 1971 to start a music career as a solo artist. His son, A.J. had just been born and Jim wrote the folk waltz, Time In A Bottle, the song that launched a 1000 music boxes, to share his feelings about the experience. It stayed unreleased as a single from his first album until its usage it a weepy TV movie, She Lives. That, combined with Jim’s death and the now ironic message, compelled ABC to release it as a single where it went to #1 at Christmas 1973, 3 months after the plane crash.
The lyrics want to make you cry your eyes, like Snoopy when Woodstock ran away. How heart wrenching that must have been to hear words like ‘there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them’, knowing that Jim was indeed out of time, so to speak. Though, how many people can say they had such a living tribute written about them and their birth and have it go to #1, such as A.J. did?
Many people have covered this song to the chagrin of the original and history has stuck this song in the cheesy bin. But it’s well crafted and perfectly sung piece. And I dare you to listen to it and not tear up.
If not, the video should do the trick…