"If you dig it, do it. If you really dig it, do it twice."
Well I've had my share of broken dreams,
And more than a couple of falls,
And in chasin' what I thought were moonbeams,
I have run into a couple of walls.
But in looking back at the places I've been,
The changes that I've left behind,
I just look at myself to find:
I've learned the hard way every time.
Jim Croce (1943-1973) was an American Singer Songwriter
. His musical style contained elements of folk, country, pop, and blues, and was notable for its intricate fingerstyle acoustic guitar. His hits included "You Don't Mess Around With Jim," "Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels)," "Time In a Bottle," "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," and "I Got a Name."
Born into a musical family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jim received his first instrument - an accordian - when he was five years old, though he didn't begin to take music seriously until college. While there, he became involved in the folk scene, and met his future wife Ingrid while judging a music competition. At the same time, he was beginning to collect the acquaintances and experiences that would later flavor his songs. He hung out with truckers and construction workers, and played gigs in dives and other rough venues.
After his graduation, Jim and Ingrid married and went to New York to try to start a recording career. While there, he signed a series of contracts with agents and managers that would prove disastrous later on. They recorded an eponymous album for Capitol records, but failed to find any great success either there or on the road. Disillusioned, the Croces moved back to Pennsylvania, where Jim took various jobs and gigs (including a stint in the Army) to pay the bills. Their son, Adrian James - for whom "Time in a Bottle" was written - was born in 1971.
He finally got his big break in 1972, when he signed a three-album deal with ABC Records and went back out on the road. The tour was exhausting for Jim and his friend and lead guitarist Maury Meuhleisen, and financially disastrous for the Croces. Despite having multiple songs on the charts, and playing more than 300 shows per year, Jim was only bringing home $200 per week - a result of the contracts he had signed years earlier. After more than a year of this, he decided the strain on his health and marriage wasn't worth it, and resolved to leave the music business for good.
He never got the chance. On September 20th, 1973, he and Meuhleisen played a gig in Natchitoches, Louisiana that had been postponed a year earlier. As their plane took off after the show, it hit a row of pecan trees and crashed, killing everyone aboard. Croce was 30, Meuhleisen 24.
After his death, Ingrid engaged in a lengthy legal battle to resecure the rights to her husband's songs - a fight that lasted into the '90s, but was ultimately successful. She also owns and operates a successful restaurant, Croce's, in San Diego. Their son (who goes by A.J.) has followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a well-regarded singer and songwriter himself.
The life and music of Jim Croce provide examples of these tropes:
- Badass: Most of his "character" songs were about badasses:
- "Roller Derby Queen" - "She might be nasty, she might be fat, but I never met a person who would tell her that."
- "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" - "Badder than old King Kong, meaner than a junkyard dog."
- "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" - "You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask of the ol' Lone Ranger, and you don't mess around with Jim."
- Played with in that the latter two were both taken down at the end of the song, Leroy by an angry husband and Jim by a country boy whose money Jim had hustled away.
- Badass Moustache
- The Big Rotten Apple:
- "Box #10"
- "New York's Not My Home"
- Breakup Song:
- "Lover's Cross"
- "Next Time, This Time"
- "One Less Set of Footsteps"
- "These Dreams"
- Christmas Songs: "It Doesn't Have to Be That Way"
- Dead Artists Are Better: The majority of his success came after his death.
- Early Installment Weirdness: His first album, Facets, is a collection of folk covers, has heavy reverb on just about everything, and lacks the intricate guitar sound that Meuhleisen contributed to his later work.
- Evil Roy: "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" (an all-around nasty character) and "Rapid Roy" (a womanizing stock car racer).
- Greatest Hits Album: Photographs & Memories: His Greatest Hits, which was released a year after his death and eventually went platinum. It's the best-selling album in his catalog.
- "I Am" Song:
- "Careful Man"
- "The Hard Way Every Time"
- "I Got a Name"
- Its Pronounced Tro Pay: "Croce," an Italian name, is pronounced "CRO-chee."
- Long Title: Averted. A couple of his songs had very long titles, but were cut down on release:
- "Roller Derby Queen" was originally "I Fell in Love With a Roller Derby Queen."
- "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues" was "I Got the Steadily Depressin', Lowdown, Mind-Messin' Workin' at the Car Wash Blues."
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Croce mixed folk, country, blues, and pop, with the occasional bit of rock 'n' roll, bluegrass, or classical for good measure.
- Nice Guy
- Non-Appearing Title:
- One Man Song: Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
- Protest Song: "Which Way Are You Going?"
- Ret Irony: Died shortly after deciding to leave the business, departing from a concert he hadn't originally been scheduled to play. On the day his fifth single was released.
- Something Blues: "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues".
- Springtime for Hitler: As a wedding gift, Jim's parents gave him $500, with the stipulation that it be used to record an album. Their reasoning was that it would fail, and that he would be persuaded to give up on the idea of being a professional musician. The album, Facets, ended up being quite popular, and sold out its entire run in less than a week.
- Younger Than They Look: In most of his later photos, he has a tired, worn look, and could easily pass for 40. He was 30 when he died.
- Young Future Famous People: Jim often brought other struggling musicians home for dinner, and invited them to parties. Among others, they included Jimmy Buffett, James Taylor, Arlo Guthrie, Bonnie Raitt, and Randy Newman.