Jul 27, 2006

Thinking About Jim Croce

Jim Croce (Toledo, OH) Driving through the rain this morning I took out a Jim Croce CD and found myself taking a melancholy detour into the past.

Croce, for those unaware, died at age 30 in a plane crash on September 20, 1973 along with his musical sidekick Maury Muehleisen. The sudden passing of this brilliant singer-songwriter hit me particularly hard as a child, for the sounds of Croce's music appealed to both me and my parents: his songs were one of our few areas of musical agreement.

Songs such as "Time In A Bottle," "I Got A Name," and "I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song" have aged quite well, and Croce's body of work - cruelly limited by the whims of Fortuna - stands as an essential component of American pop culture. The guitar duets of Croce and Muehleisen remain as beautiful and evocative as ever.

As with any life cut short, one wonders what Croce might have accomplished in the 33 years since his passing. Croce, however, had just entered an incredibly creative streak after signing his major label contract, and he released his three studio albums in 14 months after joining ABC Records.

There are prolific songwriters, and then there are creative virtuosos who seem to tap into another entire dimension of inspiration, something spiritual, something otherworldly.

Jim Croce was that sort of person, and I will forever miss him.


McCaskey said...

To any guy who ever lost a long-time girlfriend, this mournful song really hit at gut-level.
Great lines: "my best old ex-friend Ray", "a guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated", "I only wish my words could convince myself."
I'm really showing my age, I realize, but when my kids turn on the radio these days I just don't hear songwriting like this.

Anonymous said...

Great post, great man.

historymike said...

Great song, McCaskey.

I, too, show my age with this post. I stay current with music, and I don't like to write off modern writers, but I think we are just in a lull at the moment for singer-songwriters dominating the charts.

There will come another era (soon, I hope) in which great songs will again get their due.

I think the hip-hop domination of the charts is near the end of its long run. The first sign, to me, was Outkast's chart-topping efforts to incorporate "old" genres into hip-hop (as heard in the straight-pop, guitar-based "Hey Ya").

Also, although I really don't care much for him, Daniel Powter ("Bad Day") showed that singer-songwriters as a genre have wide market appeal today.

McCaskey said...

I fully admit to being hopelessly out of touch with alot of today's music, so perhaps I shouldn't knock what I don't follow or understand.
I do like Wilco, Ryan Adams, Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, some others. I actually really liked early rap, like some LL Cool J. stuff.
But, alas, I'm more apt to listen to 93.5 oldies or jazz or blues these days.
For me, the best popular music time frame was say, 1967-73. I'll put in a CD like, say, "Who's Next", turn it up on something like "Behind Blue Eyes", tell my kids this is what music REALLY should sound like, and watch them roll their eyes and call their Dad an old man with lots of memories.
And I just say, "yep."

Do said...

Let's not forget some other less known Croce 'hits' (at least to me!) with Salons & Saloons, Photographs and Memories, Alabama Rain, Lovers Cross....

Oh hell - now I have to put the disc in the player and drift.

Thanks for recognizing a legendary talen.

Brian1984 said...


I think you and I are about the same age and my mother had all three Croce albums too. I was always partial to "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" and "Working at the Carwash Blues".

When I was about 7 or 8,I thought that Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown and Sweet's "Little Willie" were the best songs in history.

Queen did a campy (but sincere)tribute to Croce entitled "Bring Back Leroy Brown".

Hooda Thunkit said...

I was never one to follow any particular artits, so I don't very often know the names of the performers or the titles of their works, but I do recognize Jim's voice and his style so I often stop and listen closely and feel his soul, just a little bit.

Jim was one of the timeless ones.

joe said...

Have you ever heard Croce's rendition of "Old Man River?" It was on one of his CDs that I have managed to lose. He gives it a folksy slant that it just great. Taking nothing away from Bruce Morton or Paul Robson, but in his own way Croce was just as good.


Anonymous said...

I think in order to find great singer/songwriters of today, you need to look past the charts. Ryan Adams was already mentioned, I'd also like to throw Damien Rice, or even Paul Weller out there, although his best days are long behind him. And who could forget Jeff Buckley, who like Croce had a career that was sadly cut short.


Jeffrey Smith said...

That brings back memories.

Anonymous said...

Never commented on one of these sites. Thanks for the story. I received my first Croce album as a Bar Mitzvah present 8/31/1973 and immediately loved the music - never having heard of Croce before. I was then shocked by his untimely death only weeks later. I own ever recorded Croce song that I could find. His music is increadibly meaningful and passionate (Dreamin' Again); othertimes, it's just great fun (Roller Derby Queen). An inceridible talent and an immense loss. What great music!!!