Photographs and Memories
January 10, 2018
There are a handful of musical artists whose star flames brightly for a very short time before they are extinguished.
One such artist was Jim Croce. Born on January 10, 1943, Croce wrote some two dozen songs which resonated with my generation: Time In a Bottle, I Have To Say I Love You in A Song, and I’ve got A Name are but three of the ballads he immortalized which spring immediately to mind.
Croce’s life path was not an easy one. No doubt he was driven to write his music despite gaining little traction with it until 1972 when his songs started to get airtime on commercial radio. His most successful single Bad, Bad Leroy Brown reached Number 1 on the Billboard Charts in July 1973. With that success came a series of appearances and, from all indications, he was on a trajectory to stardom.
From the infallible Wikipedia:
“Croce then began appearing on television, including his national debut on American Bandstand on August 12, 1972, The Tonight Show on August 14, 1972, The Dick Cavett Show on September 20/21 1972, The Helen Reddy Show airing July 19, 1973 and the newly launched The Midnight Special, which he co-hosted airing June 15. From July 16 through August 4, 1973, Croce and (Maury) Muehleisen returned to London and performed on The Old Grey Whistle Test where they sang ‘Lover’s Cross’ and ‘Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues’ from their upcoming album ‘I Got a Name’.”
Despite the success he had grown increasingly homesick and wanted to return to San Diego to be with his wife, Ingrid, and their infant son. He wrote a letter to her telling her of his plans to pursue a career as a screen writer rather than a songwriter/musician. She would not receive that letter until after his death.
The plane in which he and his band were traveling crashed on takeoff:
“On Thursday, September 20, 1973, during Croce’s Life and Times tour and the day before his ABC single ‘I Got a Name’ was released, Croce and five others died when their chartered Beechcraft E18S crashed into a tree during take-off from the Natchitoches Regional Airport in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Others killed in the crash were pilot Robert N. Elliott, musician Maury Muehleisen, comedian George Stevens, manager and booking agent Kenneth D. Cortose, and road manager Dennis Rast. Croce had just completed a concert at Northwestern State University’s Prather Coliseum in Natchitoches and was flying to Sherman, Texas, for a concert at Austin College. The plane crashed an hour after the concert. Croce was 30 years old.”
One of the things which made Croce unique was that he was truly a storyteller. Each of his songs evoke powerful images of a particular event, person or place. I have often wondered if, had he not died, would he have been able to give up music? I like to think he would have realized his amazing gift and would have continued to write songs for a generation.
Instead, I will have to be satisfied with the songs he left behind. Whenever I drive solo someplace (usually across Snoqualmie Pass to Yakima) I have with me a shoebox full of CD’s. It contains two dozen of my favorite artists and also my next favorite artists. Jim Croce is part of the first group.
When I made the trek yesterday his music was one of the three artists I chose for my travels. In fact, it’s a rare trip when I don’t find myself seeking out at least a few Jim Croce songs.
It’s pretty impossible to pick my favorite of his… so I won’t. But I will share this performance of his.
And as always a link to more information on Wikipedia:
Apparently I like Jim Croce so much that I published the article you just read a year after I also wrote the article below! I’ve left both up as I like both. How to choose between the two?
I’ve Got A Name
January 10, 2017
Welcome to my Blog. Tuesday’s are Writer’s Group day and a couple of years ago I took over as the communications czar for the group. Soon, however, I tired of the boring ‘meeting tomorrow’ sorts of emails and started sending out what I hoped were more interesting reminders.
Each week I scour the internet in search of something that tickles my fancy and piques my interest. Here you might discover some interesting historical event, a cultural connection, a biography for a writer (books, songs, poetry), or some random Geeky musing.
*It seems as if January 10th is the birth date for a whole slew of musical types including Frank Sinatra, Jr., Rod Stewart and Don Fagen (Steely Dan). But when I saw one particular name I decided to write about him. That would be Jim Croce who was born on this date in 1943. Jim Croce is on my top 10 list – maybe even my top five – of favorite musicians.
Like most of my favorites he was, first and foremost, a story teller. His songs run the gamut from humorous to quite introspective. They effectively capture time and place with their vivid imagery and effective metaphors and similes. A master songwriter can distill the human experience down to three minutes and leave all of us wishing for more. Croce did that in his songs.
Tragically, his life ended at age 30 when the private plane he and four others were in, crashed on takeoff in Natchitoches, Louisiana. In a letter to his wife – which she received after his death – he told her he had “decided to quit music and stick to writing short stories and movie scripts as a career, and withdraw from public life.”
I have always wondered if he really would have been able to walk away from the songwriting, though. Of course we will never know which is the real tragedy.
And, you can listen to the Song referenced in the subject line, I’ve Got A Name, here: