Home New England & Tri-State Music New York Series: “New York Is Not My Home” by Jim Croce

New York Series: “New York Is Not My Home” by Jim Croce

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Screen Shot 2024 02 11 at 8.14.33 PM

New York City is famously known as the place where dreams are made. Countless musicians from Jay-Z to Billy Joel have risen from the concrete jungle and in turn paid homage to the city in their respective music. Their songs like “New York State of Mind” and “Empire State of Mind”  solidify the iconography, nostalgia and incomparable energy of NYC.

But not all musicians have the same experience. Jim Croce and his song “New York’s Not My Home” is the antithesis of the other New York classics. A soft, folky, acoustic ballad, Croce expresses disillusionment with the famed city and the need to get out.

“New York’s Not My Home” was released in 1972, the third track on Croce’s third studio album You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. This was his first album recorded with ABC Records and featured many of the tunes that skyrocketed him into the public eye, including “Time in a Bottle.”

New York Series:
“You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” album art

Croce grew up in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He spent many of his formative years there, and went on to attend college at Villanova University in 1961. Croce would eventually travel far and wide but he continually was drawn back to the state of Pennsylvania his entire life. As such, he never had much attachment to New York City. In fact, he only lived there for a short period of time, in 1968. Croce moved there with his wife and fellow musician Ingrid Croce, when he was 30-years-old. With a record deal in hand, they hoped the city would lead to their big break. However, after becoming disenchanted with both the city and the music industry, the couple moved to the countryside back in Pennsylvania.

According to Ingrid, the idea for this song came as they were leaving New York and driving to their new home. As the tale goes, the couple spent the night sleeping in their car in a parking lot in New Jersey. The sight of the New York City skyline from where they were parked gave Jim the idea for the song.

In the first verse, Croce paints the scene and begins with the inkling that something here just isn’t working. 

Things were spinnin’ ’round me

And all my thoughts were cloudy

And I had begun to doubt all the things that were me

Been in so many places, you know I’ve run so many races

I looked into the empty faces of the people of the night

Somethin’ is just not right

As the lyrics suggest Croce worked many jobs and traveled many places in his lifetime. Croce worked on construction crews and taught guitar at a summer camp. He joined the U.S. Army National Guard for a brief stint. He worked as a teacher at a junior high school and he also did a foreign exchange program in Africa and the Middle East. In most cases, Pennsylvania always pulled Croce back. In this respect, New York was never really his home and never a place he felt deeply connected with.

The chorus repeats Croce’s need to leave New York City and find a new place.

‘Cause I know that I’ve gotta get outta here

I’m so alone

Don’t you know that I gotta get outta here

‘Cause New York’s not my home

The second verse gets much more literal with Croce as he delves into his reasons for wanting to leave New York. While New York is a place where dreams are conventionally made, Croce never experienced commercial success there and instead became fed up with the rat race of the industry. Croce had secured a deal with Capitol Records but the contract heavily favored the record company and there were delays with the recording process. The couple could barely afford to live in NYC as a result, so they headed for the countryside in Pennsylvania, going as far as to sell their guitars before making the move.

Though all the streets are crowded

There’s somethin’ strange about it

I lived there ’bout a year and I never once felt at home

I thought I’d make the big time

I learned a lot of lessons awfully quick

And now I’m tellin’ you that they were not the nice kind

It has been so long since I have felt fine

But even in Pennsylvania, Croce continued to write and it was here that he penned perhaps his most famous tune “Time in a Bottle.” That song, as well as “New York’s Not My Home,” were both featured on You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. The album saw immediate success with a string of hit songs and throughout 1972-1973 Croce furiously toured the country.  While commercial success didn’t come in New York, Croce did things his way and it paid off.

Towards the end of “New York’s Not My Home”, Croce fittingly ruminates on New York being someone else’s fantasy. New York may be where some dreams are made, but as Croce proves, it’s certainly not where all of them are.

 “The dream’s not mine anyway…So I’m going back to find…Some peace of mind in San Francisco.”

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Source: NYSmusic.com