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"Time in a Bottle"
Jim Croce
ABC 11405
December 1973
Billboard: #1    Lyrics Icon Videos Icon

Jim Croceime in a Bottle" was one of 12 tracks on Jim Croce's first album, You Don't Mess Around With Jim, released in 1972. Atypical of the other songs on the LP, it had an almost British feel to it, thanks to the lead acoustic guitar of Maury Muehleisen. Because it was so different from the other cuts, it was never considered for release as a single. The album did yield two hits in 1972, the title track (number eight in September) and "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)" (number 17 in December). Croce's next single, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," was taken from his second LP, Life and Times. When it went to number one in July 1973, no one had any intention of returning to the first album to mine more singles.

'You Don't Mess Around with Jim'- Jim Croce
"Time in a Bottle" was Jim Croce's second number one single and debuted in the Billboard Hot 100 on Dec. 1, 1973, 72 days after he was tragically killed in a plane crash in Natchitoches, La., on Sept. 20, 1973. The album from which it was taken, 1972's You Don't Mess Around with Jim, had earlier produced two top 20 singles, the title track and "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)." First charting on July 1, 1972, the LP spent five weeks atop the Billboard Hot 200 album chart and was certified gold by the R.I.A.A. on Nov. 26, 1973.
Until a fateful phone call. "Elliott Abbott, who was Jimmy's manager, called me and said that interest had been expressed by David Wolper to use 'Time in a Bottle' on the soundtrack of a television film," explains Phil Kurnit, partners with Terry Cashman and Tommy West in their production company. The film was She Lives!, starring Desi Arnaz, Jr., and Season Hubley. Telecast September 12, 1973, on the ABC Movie of the Week, it told the story of a young woman dying from cancer. Producer Stan Margulies and director searched for an appropriate contemporary song to use as a theme in the film. They purchased a stack of albums from a nearby record store and sat down to listen to all of them. When they heard the lyrics to "Time in a Bottle," they knew they had found the perfect song. After the broadcast, ABC affiliates all over the country received thousands of phone calls from listeners who wanted to know where they could buy the record.

The night the movie was telecast, Croce completed his third album, I Got a Name. Eight days later he gave a concert at Northwestern Louisiana University. A privately charted plane was waiting at the municipal airport at Natchitoches to take him to his next engagement, at another college 70 miles away. After an abortive take-off, the plane crashed into a tree. Jim Croce and five other people, including guitarist Maury Muehleisen, were killed.

Jim Croce was just 30 years old when he died. After years of struggling, he had experienced a year of intoxicating success. His music appealed to the head and the heart, and once, during a concert, he analyzed his appeal, "I'm a kind of music psychologist, or a musical bouncer, or a live juke box. It depends on the audience."

After his death, "I Got a Name" was released as a single. It was used as a theme in the motion picture The Last American Hero. The week it peaked at number 10, "Time in a Bottle," a single at last, entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 79. Six weeks later it was Croce's second number one single and the third posthumous number one of the rock era.

- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.

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