One thought ahead. Two sentences behind.


Have you ever been in the middle of a song, singing away, when a singular, poignant thought comes to you, as in what are the words coming out of my mouth? For example:

Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care

What does this even mean? Does it mean anything or is it like most children’s songs that string nonsensical words together in an attempt to keep little ones occupied? Well, to understand the chorus let us start with the lyrics:

When I was young I used to wait
On master and hand him his plate
Pass him the bottle when he got dry
And brush away the blue-tail fly

That’s wonderful. We now have a children’s song about slavery. What lesson are we going to learn?

When he would ride in the afternoon
I’d follow him with my hickory broom
The pony being rather shy
When bitten by the blue-tail fly

How is the singer going to follow if the master is on a horse? And if a horse gets bit by a fly the size of a model airplane, why is its reaction shyness? If you were ever bit by a blue-tail fly, which is a horse fly, then you know it feels like you are being stabbed and burned at the same time. It’s a bite that does not cause shyness unless shyness meant enraged anger during the antebellum South, which explains:

Well the pony jumped, he start, he pitch
He threw my master in the ditch

Now I can understand the jovial nature of the song. Of course the singer is going to feel pretty good after seeing his master chucked from a horse. But why does the singer feel a need to crack some corn?

Like many things in life (e.g. the bible, the constitution, the television series Lost) the chorus has multiple interpretations. Depending on the source and what to believe, “jimmy crack corn” can mean:

• Cheap corn whiskey
• The term used to open a bottle of cheap corn whiskey
• Crows eating in a cornfield
• A regional term meaning “chitchatting”

I think it is perfectly reasonable to believe that after seeing his master fall off a horse and break his neck, the singer probably retrieved the bottle from the previous stanza, sat in the master’s chair and said, “That’s the funniest thing I ever saw.”

Still how did an accidental death turn into a kid’s song? Why did Burl Ives turn it into a sleepy lullaby? Why would a white rapper from Detroit spin his own song from the title? I read Eminem’s lyrics a couple of times and I have no idea what it is about. All I can gather is belligerent indifference. Here is an excerpt:

Jimmy crack corn and I don’t
Did you hear? I don’t give a

On a positive note, even with the string of profanity and a guest solo by 50 Cent, it doesn’t appear anyone dies in Eminem’s version.

Since the true meaning of this song may never be revealed, I feel I can offer my own interpretation. After all, I’m addicted to popcorn.  So when I hear “crack corn” I naturally think of popcorn. And “Jimmy” can easily sound like Jiffy. So it’s not a stretch to sing:

Jiffy Popcorn and I do stare
Jiffy Popcorn and I do glare
Jiffy Popcorn and I’m aware
I burnt the batch again.  Dang!

Photo courtesy of salinjohn.

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