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Photographs and Memories – Remembering Jim Croce

Few people have lived life, and wrote about it, as genuinely and uniquely as this young man from Philadelphia. He was … is … one of my favorite artists, when I was a young man, and still today. Jim Croce, was a genuine man and it resonated in his music. Never pretentious; no fake name or stage persona, he was just simply a brilliant story teller and a pretty darn good musician. Jim Croce brought everyday life, fun, drama, and a bit of love, into everyone’s life.

He was born James Joseph Croce in January of 1943, and like many artists of his day, he was just 30 when he died. But he packed a world of experience into his short-lived music career. When he wrote songs, he kept it basic. Jim would once say, “There’s something about approaching universal truths with the simplicity of the acoustic guitar. You can take it anywhere and it helps me reach listeners ofall ages and walks of life.”

His list of hit songs, is actually quite amazing considering how short a time he was performing in public. In the summer of 1973, I was thrilled to learn of his tour of small venues and university’s and was desperately looking forward to Croce coming to Indiana so I could see him perform at whichever venue he chose. It was to be one of the first “concerts” I would ever attend, and rightfully so because I absolutely adored his musical talents, songwriting, and simple down-to-earth personality. Sadly, it turned out to be a “concert” that would never be! ☹

With all credit going to the Croce Music Group LLC, the following is an appropriate reflection on this great artist:

When Jim Croce stepped on stage at Northwestern State University in Louisiana on September 20, 1973, he was riding a wave of long-overdue success. Over the prior year and a half, the 30-year-old singer/songwriter had gone from an opening act to the headliner. He had released two much-loved albums with a third, I Got A Name, due to come out in 10 days.

Since the release of his ABC Records debut, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, in early 1972, Croce had been working virtually non-stop. A surprise hit, the album produced three high-charting singles: the title track, "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)," and “Time In A Bottle,” and his follow-up, 1973’s Life And Times yielded his first #1 hit, “Bad Bad Leroy Brown.”

After his September 20th concert, Croce and his small crew, including guitarist and close friend Maury Muehleisen flew out of Natchitoches Airport on a chartered plane. Seconds after take-off, the plane crashed. No one survived.

Ironically, it was the news of his tragic plane crash that made Jim Croce a household name. Upon its release, I Got A Name quickly shot to #1, while his previous release, Life And Times, rose to #2 on the Billboard Album Chart (a feat unequaled until Guns and Roses achieved it in 1991). At the 1974 American Music Awards, Croce posthumously won "Favorite Male Vocalist Pop/Rock" honors. Singles from all three albums crowded the top ten, with “Time In A Bottle” reaching number #1 in 1974. The song’s powerful, poignant lyrics foresaw a short life and what was dearest about it.

James Joseph Croce was born in South Philadelphia into a working-class Italian family on January 10, 1943. Croce grew up listening to all kinds of music, from Enrico Caruso to Fats Waller. After getting his first guitar, he became interested in R&B, rock and roll, country, blues and folk – music that influenced his own songwriting.

Croce attended Villanova University (the first in his family to go to college). In 1963, Croce helped judge a Philadelphia hootenanny band competition. The winning group featured a 16-year-old singer named Ingrid Jacobson. Jim and Ingrid fell in love immediately. Soon the two began performing together and, in 1966, they married.

Jim and Ingrid continued playing music while she attended art school and he joined the Army National Guard, and then worked as a high school teacher, a truck driver, and a DJ. Capitol Records signed the folk-singing duo, but their 1968 debut, Jim and Ingrid Croce, fared poorly. After years of juggling jobs with making music, Croce saw himself at a career crossroads when 1970 arrived. Late that year, however, Jim learned that Ingrid was pregnant with their son, Adrian James, and he felt a renewed mission to make it in the music industry. That same night Jim wrote “Time In A Bottle” for his wife and unborn son.

Today, “Time In A Bottle” is one of the most asked for and performed songs, at weddings as newly married couples start their lives together.

After signing with ABC Records in 1971, Croce spent the next two years touring or in the studio away from his family and friends. Despite finding success, he was burned out from the road by September of 1973. Broke due to bad business agreements, Jim moved with Ingrid and their baby to San Diego hoping for a fresh start. He planned on taking a break after his tour was done, but the tragic plane crash changed everything.

Jim Croce’s songs and his legacy, however, continue to live on. His record sales have surpassed the 45 million mark. His music has been covered by countless artists and appeared in many films and TV shows. In 1990, Croce was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

If you don’t know Jim Croce’s music, check it out or look it up. I guarantee you that you will be amazed and in love with it’s every day lyrics yet brilliant guitar play. Jim wrote and played the kind of music that will resonate as long as people walk the earth. He was brilliant, funny, endearing, and loving, and I have been so very privileged and blessed to have known his music, and just a little bit about the man. God bless Jim, Ingrid, and Adrian (AJ) and all who enjoy his music - I look forward to the day I’ll get to finally see and hear you perform, when I join you in Heaven.

EPILOGUE – CBS Sunday morning did a small piece on Jim Croce through an interview of his son Adrian (AJ). It aired on June 19, 2022. I strongly recommend looking this up and viewing it – It is a great reflection on Jim, from his son AJ.

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