Jim Croce – The People’s Songwriter – By Michelle S.
What made Jim Croce so special was that he was very charismatic and funny. But mostly, he was a great storyteller. Why he isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is beyond me. Jim Croce received some critical acclaim. But in my opinion, he was underrated. In the soft rock genre, he made music that has withstood the test of time. It is sad his life and career were so short. He wrote a lot of music that touched a lot of people which is a great feat in such a short time period.
Jim Croce was an American folk-singer and songwriter. He was raised in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a child, he would listen to ragtime and country music which is why Croce picked up music at a young age. He learned to play his first song on the accordion, “Lady of Spain,” when he was 5. He eventually taught himself to play guitar as well. Music always was an outlet for him.
He graduated from high school in 1960 and went on to enroll at Villanova University in Pennsylvania in 1961. It was only when he started his freshman year of college that Croce began taking music more seriously.
Croce met his future wife, Ingrid Jacobson, at a folk music party. They wed in 1966, the same year that Croce released a self-issued solo album, Facets. From the mid-1960s to early 1970s, Croce and Jacobson performed as a duo.
They played covers but eventually started writing their own music. At a friend’s suggestion they tried their luck in New York and while there, they were introduced to Terry Cashman, who helped them to produce their first album, Croce.
They became disappointed with the New York music scene and went back to Pennsylvania where their son Adrian was born. Croce got a job driving trucks and working construction for some extra money but continued to write music mostly about people he met in his daily life at bars and truck stops.
In 1970, a friend introduced Croce to Maury Muehleisen, a classically trained pianist, guitarist and singer-songwriter from Trenton, New Jersey. Sal encouraged the duo to get together and record new songs, and to send them to ABC Records.
Soon after sending in their music to ABC, they met with producer Cashman in New York City. In 1972, ABC Records signed with Croce and released his first solo album, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. The record was an instant success and became a Top 20 album in the United States.
From 1972 to 1973, Croce performed more than 250 concerts and made appearances on television. In 1973, ABC released his second album, Life and Times, which featured the hit “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” The single hit No. 1 on the American charts in July 1973, and then went gold. That same year, Croce and his wife relocated to San Diego, California.
On September 20, 1973, Croce, Muehleisen and four others were killed in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Croce had just finished a concert at Northwestern State University’s Prather Coliseum.
The posthumous release of Croce’s third album I Got a Name in December 1973 included three hits: “Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues,” “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song” and the title track. The album reached No. 2 on the American charts, and both “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song” and “I Got a Name” reached the Top 10 on the singles charts.