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Jim Croce
Born January 10, 1943(1943-01-10)
Origin South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Died September 20, 1973 (aged 30)
Genres Soft rock[1]
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Guitar, Vocals[1]
Years active 1960–1973
Labels Capitol/EMI Records
ABC Records
Saja/Atlantic Records

James Joseph "Jim" Croce (pronounced /ˈkroʊtʃi/;[2] January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973) was an Italian American singer-songwriter. Between 1960 and 1973, Croce released six studio albums and eleven singles. His singles "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and "Time in a Bottle" were both number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Croce died in a plane crash at the age of 30.

Contents

Biography

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Early life

Jim Croce was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania in 1960. Croce attended Malvern Preparatory School, in Malvern, Pennsylvania, for one year, then went on to Villanova University from which he graduated in 1965. Croce was a member of the Villanova Singers and Villanova Spires and was a student disc jockey at WXVU.[3]

Croce met his future wife, Ingrid Jacobson, at a hootenanny at Convention Hall in Philadelphia, where he was a judge for a contest. When they married, he converted to Judaism.[4] Jim's musical career started when he was five years old, learning to play "Lady of Spain" on the accordion. He says, "I was the original underachiever. I'd shake that thing and smile, but I was sort of a late bloomer." He didn't really take music too seriously until 1964, while he was attending Villanova College in Pennsylvania. There he formed various bands, doing fraternity parties and playing "anything that the people wanted to hear: blues, rock, acapella, railroad music...anything." One of those bands was chosen for a foreign exchange tour of Africa and the Middle East. "We had a good time," Jim recalls. "We just ate what the people ate, lived in the woods, and played our songs. Of course they didn't speak English over there... but if you mean what you're singing, people understand."

Early career

During the early 1960s, Croce formed a number of college bands, performed at coffee houses and universities, and later performed with his wife as a duo in the mid-1960s to early 1970s. At first, their performances included songs by Ian and Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez, and Woody Guthrie, but in time they began writing their own music.

During this time, Croce got his first long-term gig at a rural bar and steak house in Lima, Pennsylvania, called the Riddle Paddock. His set list included every genre from blues to country to rock 'n roll to folk, with tender love songs and traditional bawdy ballads, always introduced with a story and an impish grin.

In 1968, Jim and Ingrid Croce were encouraged by record producer Tommy West to move to New York City and record their first album with Capitol Records. During the next two years, they drove more than 300,000 miles[5] playing small clubs and concerts on the college concert circuit promoting their album Jim & Ingrid Croce.

Then, disillusioned by the music business and New York City, Croce sold all but one guitar to pay the rent and they returned to the Pennsylvania countryside where Croce got a job driving trucks and doing construction to pay the bills while continuing to write songs, often about the characters he enjoyed meeting at the local bars and truck stops.

He returned to Philadelphia and decided to be "serious." But it was hard to make a living playing in a band and his previous employment experiences had lost their appeal: "I'd worked construction crews, and I'd been a welder while I was in college. But I'd rather do other things than get burned." His determination to be "serious" led to a job at a Philadelphia R&B radio station, where he translated commercials into Soul. "I'd sell airtime to Bronco's Poolroom and then write the spot: 'You wanna be cool, and you wanna shoot pool...(dig it).'" Increasingly frustrated, he quit to teach guitar at a summer camp and even enlisted in the U.S. Army. He did not have a very illustrious military career but said he would be prepared if there's ever a war where we have to defend ourselves with mops.

Success

In 1970, Croce met the classically trained pianist/guitarist, singer-songwriter Maury Muehleisen from Trenton, New Jersey through Joe Salviuolo (aka Sal Joseph). Salviuolo had been friends with Croce when they attended Villanova University together, and Salviuolo later discovered Maury when he was teaching at Glassboro State College in New Jersey. Salviuolo brought the Croce and Muehliesn duo together at the production office of Tommy West and Terry Cashman in New York City. Initially, Croce backed Muehleisen on guitar at his gigs. But in time, their roles reversed, with Muehleisen adding lead guitar to Croce's down-to-earth music.

In 1972, Croce signed to a three-record deal with ABC Records and released two LPs, You Don't Mess Around with Jim and Life & Times that same year. The singles "You Don't Mess Around with Jim", "Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels)", and "Time in a Bottle" (written for his then-unborn son, A. J. Croce) all received airplay. Croce's biggest single, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown", hit #1 on the American charts in the summer of 1973,Jim's daughter Heidieh was born as the album went on to keep selling two million copies.

Death

Croce, 30, and Muehleisen, 24, died in a small commercial plane crash on September 20, 1973, shortly before his ABC single, "I Got a Name" was to be released.

Croce had just completed a concert in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and was flying to Sherman, Texas for a concert at Austin College. The pilot and all passengers (Croce; Muehleisen; Croce's booking agent Kenneth D. Cortose; George Stevens, the comic who was the show's warm-up act; and Dennis Rast, another passenger) were killed instantly at 10:45 PM EDT on September 20, 1973, less than an hour after the end of the concert. Upon takeoff, the Beechcraft E18 plane did not gain enough altitude to clear a pecan tree at the end of the runway, which investigators said was the only tree for hundreds of yards. The official report from the NTSB[6] hints that the charter pilot, Robert Newton Elliott, who had severe coronary artery disease and had run a portion of the three miles to the airport from a motel, may have suffered a heart attack. A later investigation placed sole blame for the accident on pilot error.

Croce was buried in Haym Salomon Memorial Park, East Whiteland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Legacy

The album I Got A Name was released on December 1, 1973.[7] [8] Croce had only finished recording the album eight days before his death. The posthumous release included three hits: the title song, "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues", and "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song".

News of the death of the singer also sparked renewed interest in Croce's first two albums. The song "Time in a Bottle" had been featured in the ABC-TV movie "She Lives!",[9] which aired on September 12, 1973; that appearance generated significant interest in Croce and his music in the week just prior to his death. Three months later, "Time in a Bottle", originally released on Croce's first album the year before, became a #1 hit single (the third posthumous chart-topping song of the Rock Era following Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" and Janis Joplin's recording of "Me and Bobby McGee" by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster). A “Greatest Hits” package released in 1974 also proved to be extraordinarily popular.

Later posthumous releases have included Jim Croce Home Recordings, Facets, Jim Croce: Classic Hits, and DVD and CD releases of Croce's television performances, Have You Heard – Jim Croce Live.

Croce's catalog became a staple of radio play for years, and is still receiving significant airplay in the second decade of the 21st century. In 1990, Croce was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Croce's son Adrian James is an accomplished singer-songwriter, musician and pianist, performing under the name A. J. Croce. He has released seven CDs of original music and one 'best of' ("Early On") in his career. A. J. Croce is also the owner/operator of his own record label, Seedling Records.[10]

Croce's widow Ingrid Croce owns and manages "Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar", located in the historic Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego, California. She opened the business in 1985.

Tributes and references

"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" inspired Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury to write the song "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" for the band's third album, Sheer Heart Attack, released a year after Croce died.

The Righteous Brothers pay tribute to Croce in their song "Rock And Roll Heaven". He is also mentioned in Stephen King's You Know They Got a Hell of a Band, a short story about a town populated by late music legends. The title of King's short story comes from a line in the Righteous Brothers song.

Gino Vannelli wrote the song "Poor Happy Jimmy" as a tribute to Croce.

In 2008, Jim Croce appeared as a character in "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows?", the fourth episode of the American remake of Life on Mars, set in May, 1973. Detective Sam Tyler warns him to avoid small airplanes, a reference to his death four months later.

In the Family Guy episode "Ready, Willing, and Disabled", pharmacist Mort Goldman is shown singing the chorus to "I've Got a Name" along with the radio, while Peter steals steroids.

In the 2004 remake of Starsky & Hutch, Huggy Bear, portrayed by Snoop Dog, says to Starsky, 'I don't know. Listen to Jim Croce, play darts... whatever the hell else you white people do.'.

Discography

Studio and live albums

Compilations

  • Photographs & Memories: His Greatest Hits (1974)
  • Down the Highway (1975)
  • Time in a Bottle: Jim Croce's Greatest Love Songs (1976)
  • Bad, Bad Leroy Brown: Jim Croce's Greatest Character Songs (1978)
  • The Very Best of Jim Croce (1979)
  • The 50th Anniversary Collection (1992) - 2 CDs
  • 24 Karat Gold in a Bottle (1994)
  • The Definitive Collection: "Time in a Bottle" (1999) - 2 CDs
  • Words and Music (1999)
  • Classic Hits (2004)

Singles

Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US US AC US Country CAN CAN AC
1972 "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" 8 4 You Don't Mess Around with Jim
"Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)" 17 10
1973 "One Less Set of Footsteps" 37 41 27 Life and Times
"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" 1 1 3
"I Got a Name" 10 4 8 5 I Got a Name
"Time in a Bottle" 1 1 1 1 You Don't Mess Around with Jim
"It Doesn't Have to Be That Way" 64 Life and Times
1974 "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song" 9 1 68 4 I Got a Name
"Workin' at the Car Wash Blues" 32 9 18 2
1976 "Chain Gang Medley" 63 29 42 Down the Highway
"Mississippi Lady" 110
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

References

External links


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