The Lumineers album III tells the story of the Sparks family. the album is broken up into three EP’s I, II, and III. I focuses on the mother/grandmother, Gloria Sparks, an alcoholic whose poor choices constantly put her and her family at risk. II is about Junior sparks, Gloria’s grand son. III depicts the life of Jimmy Sparks, Gloria’s son and Junior’s father. He struggles with many kinds of addiction and has little experience with healthy relationships. As the song Jimmy Sparks goes on it tells the story of Jimmy’s troubled life and how his strained relationship with his son as a child affects him in the future.
Jimmy believed in the American way
A prison guard, he worked hard and made the minimum wage
He found his freedom lockin’ men in a cage
This song centers around addiction and hardships. Jimmy is stuck in multiple unhealthy habits and is governed by his own addictions. Professionally he works as a prison guard and uses the power he has there to gain a sense of control. These lines explain the entirety of Jimmy’s experience. He worked as hard as he could to no avail, causing him to feel lost. Instead of addressing this directly, Jimmy looks for other outlets, such as his authority over prisoners. The irony in the last line is used to show how he feels out of control in his personal life and overcompensates through his control within prisons.
The waitress babysat the boy at the bar, oh no
After an hour, Jimmy doubled his cash
He took his kid and his winnings as the dealer just laughed
These lines display the relationship between Jimmy and his son. Junior grew up watching his dad struggle with substance abuse and a gambling addiction. While Jimmy did win, the dealers reaction shows that it won’t be the end of it. The dealer is aware of Jimmy’s problem and is amused by his temporary victory before he returns and loses the money again. The description of a simple expression says a lot about the patterns Jimmy displays that aren’t blatantly mentioned.
His old man waved his hands with tears in his eyes
But Jimmy’s son just sped up and remembered daddy’s advice
No, you don’t ever give a hitcher a ride ’cause it’s us or them
‘Cause it’s me or him
Jimmy and Junior have an obviously strained relationship but that is never explicitly stated. In this one moment, one of the final stories told in the song, the full extent of their issues are visible. Jimmy was incapable of providing his son with a typical childhood and it stuck with him. The majority of these lines are a memory of a “lesson” Jimmy gave his son. This lesson influenced Juniors decision to not help his dad. Junior is unable to move past the way his father brought him up and because of that, they no longer have a relationship.