Jim Croce – A Voice Quieted Too Soon

As I am tired of writing about politics, I wanted to follow the inspiration of Jenni at www.newsofthetimes.wordpress.com and Lis at www.carrpartyoffive.wordpress.com and write about one of my favorite songwriters who passed away far too early. During the Grammy Awards in early 1974, Ingrid Jacobson Croce, the wife of Jim Croce walked to the dais to accept a posthumous Grammy for Jim’s last album called “I Got a Name” which he just finished recording. It was even more appropriate that she did as they actually started as a duo in the mid-1960’s in the Philadelphia area and gave up when Jim became a truck driver and welder after it became too hard to earn a living as singers. Fortunately for us he continued to write songs and look to play.

Jim Croce died in a plane crash on September 20, 1973 in Natchitoches, LA with five others including a friend and fellow songwriter, Maury Muehleisen. His career was literally just beginning to take flight, so the crash was terribly tragic and stood as a horrible metaphor. The folks who may know his music today would probably list a few of his  popular songs – “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” “Time in a Bottle,” and “I Got a Name.” These are excellent and he was just branching into other people song’s with “I Got a Name.” Yet, his body of work is fairly robust for such a short period of time. He combined a storytelling performance style, with a coffee-house voice and tremendous lyrics and music. For those of you who know his music only a little or not at all, I would suggest you check out a few other songs that were a little less famous, yet will paint a clearer picture of one of the most underappreciated artists of this generation.

“Lover’s Cross” is usually at the top of my list of Croce favorites as he finally decides to painfully leave his lover as he can no longer hang on a “lover’s cross for you.” He sings  “I’ve come to my decision and it is one of the painful kind. Well, it seems that you wanted a martyr, but that’s the one thing I just couldn’t do.”

“New York’s Not My Home” expresses the loneliness of living in New York trying to make the big time. He and Ingrid went there as they tried to make it as a duo.He laments “I lived there about a year and I never once felt at home” and “It has been so long since I have felt fine.” His singing would accentuate words and syllables in an easy flow with the music.

“Working at the Car Wash Blues” has some of the best acoustic guitar playing and lyrics about those “steadily depressing, low down mind-messing working at the car wash blues.” It is best metaphor for getting an education.

“Photographs and Memories” is a remarkable song for its short  length. His voice brings a sadness as he laments about the only thing he has left of a relationship. “All that I have are these, to remember you.”

“One Less Set of Footsteps” descriptively portrays the realization that I need to leave this relationship saying there will be “one less pair of jeans on your door” or “one less voice who’s talking” in addition to the absent footsteps “on your floor in the morning.”

“Operator” is more famous, but it is probably the best window into Croce’s ability as he tries to reach his old lover who has run away with “my best old ex-friend Ray.” Many have heard this one, but I like to listen more closely to some of the phrasing of his conversation with the operator when he says “you have been so much more than kind.”

There are many others to choose from “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” “Roller Derby Queen,” “Alabama Rain,” and “Rapid Roy” in addition to others mentioned and others not. Since I like to read and write, I am a huge fan of great lyricists, but we all need a great tune and singing style to tie it all together. I do like some simple songs and I do like blues and jazz which may have no lyrics at all. Yet, I like the combination of great lyrics and great music. I remember the line from Eddie in the movie “Eddie and the Cruisers” as he talked to the Wordman – “words and music – we need each other. Words and music.” Croce embodied words and music and he could tell the story as well as anyone.

Give Jim Croce a try or revisit your own photographs and memories and reconnect. I told Lis in a post the other day where we discussing one of Jimmy Buffett’s songs, the songs of Croce, Buffett and others were the songs I sang to my children as I rocked them to sleep or tried to stop them from crying (man, I loved that glider). I knew the words and could make a reasonable attempt to sing them. They must have worked as they went to sleep or stopped crying. I can assure you it was not the singing voice, but as Eddie said it was the “words and music.”

17 thoughts on “Jim Croce – A Voice Quieted Too Soon

  1. OK, now you’re really tugging on my cape, pulling at my mask, and you don’t mess around with Jim! Croce is likely my most favorite music and musician ever, the epitome of old rock and folk, a musician who knew how to tell a story with each song he made. I had all his albums, then the CD’s, and now all are on my computer, which I play incessently while working in my shop. Whenever a Croce tune comes up, I stop whatever I’m doing just to listen. He was that good!

    Croce’s wife opened a restaurant/museum in San Diego’s Gaslight district, which we visited several years ago. (Don’t know if it is still there.) What a great experience.

    Thanks for bringing up old memories. They are the best!!

    • Wow. What a neat connection and story. I will be traveling today, so I will be putting in best of CD. It is kind of a Photographs and Memories plus six other songs. I promise not to spit into the wind. :>)

  2. This is very nice to read. I love to read any and all feelings, thoughts and comments about “JIM CROCE” as I was raised just around the block from him in our town of ‘Upper Darby’ a suburb west of Philadelphia. I remain in touch with Jim’s family and always clue them in on sites such as these. Two corrections I’d like to point to in paragraph’s 2 and 8; the great sound that undoubtably contributed to Jimmy’s fame is the beautiful guitar leads of “MAURY” Muehleisen and not Manny. The final recording of “One Less Set of Foot Steps” had been changed to ..Well they’ll be one less set of foot steps on your floor, one less man to walk in.. This is not to embarass the writer as I feel they are a true Croce lover. Thank you. Upper Darby Bill

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments and corrections. He seemed like a very genuine person which came through in his songs. Thanks for stopping by. Take a look at the comment from Barney as well.

  3. Croce and his wife, Ingrid, had just moved to San Diego a couple of months before he died in the airplane crash. In 1985 Ingrid opened Croce’s Restaurant here in the Gaslamp Quarter. One of our better restaurants here, albeit on the expensive side.

  4. Croce’s Club is downtown in the Gaslamp District in Dan Diego. I first met his wife Ingrid 15 years ago during a “Time-in-a-bottle” sing-a-thon. She did a great job kerping the club relavant and jumping. She introduced a new generatin to her husbands music, in San Diego and she funded music programs n middle-schools. Jim C lives on in San Diego.

    Thank you for a great post. Great memories.

    • Thanks for sharing this. It is interesting I did this particular post to share my memories and it has taken off. I have heard from some others who may have been at that sing-along as well. I am surprised that so few artists have covered his songs. Maybe they cannot replace that unique voice that resonated with so many. His are some of the few songs I can still remember in their entirety (or as close as I can get to 100% accurate). Take care, BTG

  5. So sad, and tragic. You know, he would have not died that day if he didn’t become so popular. But in that hand, we wouldn’t be talking about him, and his legendary voice/talent here today. Recently got a friend at work hooked on him, easiest thing in the world to do!. Here is to the man, the legend, Jim Croce!

  6. Pingback: Songwriters and Performers | musingsofanoldfart

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