Morning Song – You Don’t Mess Around With Jim
The New York City in Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” is barely recognizable today.
But when it was released in the summer of 1972 (and soared to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100), hustlers like Frank Lucas ruled uptown, “Bowery bums” hadn’t been displaced by gentrification, and 42nd Street was a wild, exhilarating, scary, un-Disneyfied open air entertainment center. Meanwhile, New York City as a whole was imploding (losing nearly 1 million residents in the generation after WW II) and hurtling towards bankruptcy.
It was Croce’s particular genius to tell stories of rough-edged, working-class characters and their lives, and to do so without false romance or sentimentality. There’s nothing pretty about a pool hustler dying in a barroom brawl…but it does make a great story to tell afterwards at the beauty salon or the local pub.