Today, September 20, 2015 we mark the 42nd anniversary of the passing of a musical great. Jim Croce died on this date in 1973, when his airplane failed to gain enough altitude upon takeoff and crash into a line of trees, killing everyone on board. Croce was 30 and left behind a wife and a young boy.
The early 1970's was filled with singer/songwriters. James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, John Denver, Al Stewart....just to name a few. However Jim Croce and his legacy stand out among all of them as being different, having something special.
Born in 1943 in Philadelphia to Italian American immigrant parents, Jim Croce's first instrument was an accordion that he would play at family functions. After graduating from college with a degree in psychology in 1965, Jim and his new wife Ingrid formed a folk music duo and went around to small clubs playing songs by Lightfoot, Joan Baez, and Woody Guthrie. This didn't work out to well and soon the couple was living on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania while Jim drove truck or worked construction. But he never stopped writing songs.
His breakthrough came in the summer of 1972 when he signed with ABC records and released his first single, "You Don't Mess Around With Jim." That opened the flood gates and for 18 months the public fell in love with Jim Croce. He put out hit after hit "Operator", "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown", and "I Got A Name," among many others.
But probably his best known song "Time In a Bottle" was released by the record company as a single, weeks after his death.
Even though Jim Croce died 6 weeks before I was born, his music moves me like no other. His words are poetic, his voice full of emotion, and his songs live in me long after the needle reaches the run out of the vinyl.
I have a CD that was released on what would have been Jim's 50th birthday. It's a compilation of his hits and some lesser known songs. One of my favorite moments though comes at the end of the CD. The last song is a tune called "Top Hat Bar and Grille". The song fades out and there is a pause of about 10 seconds. Just as you are getting up to turn off the CD player, Jim's voice comes back on as if out of nowhere. I don't know where it was taken from, an interview I'm assuming, but he says in the most casual off the cuff manner possible, "If you dig it, do it. If you really dig it, do it twice."