Jim Croce tops a long list of artists and musicians throughout history who have been taken way too soon from the world. Croce, a folk singer-songwriter struggled for much of the early part of his career before penning highly notable songs such as "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and "Time in a Bottle". Inspired by the success and seemingly underground movement of young people rediscovering Fleetwood Mac, I decided to tackle some musicians as their names cross my mind and talk about their careers and music at length.
Croce was born in 1943 on the Southside of Philadelphia, PA to an Italian family and raised on country and ragtime music. By his early 20's, Croce was already touring the northeast in a number of folk bands, finding his own sound in the early sixties amidst the likes of Bob Dylan among others. He also met his wife Ingrid Jacobson during these tours, as both were musically inclined.
In 1968, Croce moved to New York with his wife in hopes of striking up some kind of record deal or future in music, financing enough to print 300,000 copies of their first album "Croce", and began touring regularly in small venues staying still primarily in the northeast. By 1971, Jim and Ingrid settled down on the Pennsylvania countryside, with Ingrid pregnant and Jim picking up more steady jobs in construction or labor as he continued to write songs about the people he would meet in bars.
Begginning in 1970 and continuing throughout the pregnancy and birth of his child Adrian, Croce worked with Maury Muehleisen who he was connected with through a mutual friend. The pair wrote and rehearsed together, playing small gigs over the course of two years before finally recording their current works and sending them to ABC where the album was published as "You Don't Mess Around With Jim", Croce's first solo album and a commercial success behind the song "Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels)".
Between the release of "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" and Croce's death, he released two other albums entitled "I Got A Name" and "Life and Times". Between these two releases, Croce penned hits such as the title track "I Got A Name", "Time In A Bottle", "Bad Bad Leroy Brown", and numerous others proving to be maybe one of the most successful singer songwriters given the short volumn of out put and the high quality of success.
Throughout the release of these three albums, Croce spent many long days and hours on the road working late night shows, crowded venues, and traveling nationwide to promote the music, which quickly took a toll on Jim. Not in the sense that he was turning to drugs or was physically breaking down, but in the sense that he was losing the same vision for the music he had once before.
As had happened with Jim and Ingrid when they first came to New York in search of success in music, the now solo Jim was growing homesick for his wife and young son, craving the writing of films and stories of the writings and performing of music for larger and larger crowds. In one of the worst twists of fate, it was actually reported that Croce's last letter to his wife, which arrived the week after his death, included his desires to settle at home and become more focused on writing and being a family man.
On September 20, 1973, Jim loaded into a plane with Muehleisen and others which crashed attempting to leave the runway in Sherman, Texas. The story is a mix of misfortune and a likely chance to avoid problems. Due to black out conditions, the pilot couldn't see the peach tree at the end of the runway which forced the chartered plane to gain altitude more qucikly than usual. It also didn't help that the 57-year old pilot had a heart attack upon take off.
Croce left a potentially huge career in music, a fullfilling family life, and a satisfied life without any real chance to know what was coming. The tragedy that is life.
Check out this documentary below for the full Croce story.