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Jim Croce: Lyrical Poet

By Edited May 7, 2015 7 20

Musical Minstrel

Singer, song writer, and musician Jim Croce told stories through his songs. His ballads about saving time in a bottle, trying to reconnect with a lost love through the help of an operator, and having to say "I love you in a song," are poetic gems.  He also wrote pop numbers recounting life experiences such as meeting a man who was "meaner than a junkyard dog" and a less than welcoming experience in New York. His songs became popular in the early '70s and the popularity continued throughout the 80s and 90s. Unfortunately, Croce did not live to see the fruits of his labor, he died in 1973 before the height of his popularity.

Jim Croce

"The Original Underachiever"

Jim Croce 50th Anniversary CD(97201)
Born James Joseph Croce on January 10, 1943 in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Croce taught himself to play the guitar as a child. He also played the accordion, and when he was five he learned to play the song "Lady of Spain."[3642]

Although musically inclined as a child, Croce worked at several odd jobs until he decided to pursue music as a career. He later referred to himself as "the original underachiever" and "sort of a late bloomer."[3642] Croce attended Villanova College in Pennsylvania where he formed several bands and played "anything that people wanted to hear." One of his bands was chosen to participate in a foreign exchange tour of Africa and the Middle East. It didn't matter that the audience could not understand English because "if you mean what you're saying, people understand," Croce later said.[3642]

Classic Hits of Jim Croce
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New York's not my Home

During college Croce worked with construction crews and as a welder. After college he worked at a hospital teaching emotionally disturbed children.[3643] Croce later got a job at a Philadelphia R&B radio station writing "jive" commercials and selling airtime. He later said he'd often go into jazz bars trying to sell radio time and people would think he was a cop or a collection man because he would be the only white person in the bar.[3644]He quit his radio job after becoming frustrated. He made money teaching guitar at an arts camp to "people who had to wear loafers cause they couldn’t tie their shoes."[3642] Croce later enlisted in the U.S. Army and later he finally decided to give music another try.

Croce claimed he played at some pretty rough bars until a college friend by the name of Tommy West convinced him to play the New York coffeehouse circuit. Croce and his wife Ingrid moved to The Big Apple where they met Terry Cashman who, along with West, produced an album which failed to sell.[3644]Croce and Ingrid stayed in New York for about a year and a half. During that time Croce learned about the music business and collected guitars.[3642] He eventually became disheartened with the situation and he and his wife moved back to Pennsylvania.

Croce later recorded the song New York's Not My Home, vocalizing his negative experiences through such lyrics as; "Though all the streets are crowded - There's something strange about it.  I lived there bout a year and I never once felt at home. I thought I'd make the big time, I learned a lot of lessons awful quick and now I'm telling you, that they were not the nice kind . . . That's the reason that I gotta get out of here. I'm so alone. Don't you know that I gotta get out of here. Cause, New York's not my home."

Jim Croce Classic Hits(97202)
You Don't Mess Around With Jim

Jim and Ingrid lived on a farm in Pennsylvania where they had a son, Adrian James (A.J.). Ingrid baked bread and canned fruits and vegetables while Croce went back to construction work and did some singing sessions for commercials. When the money ran out Croce sold some of the guitars he'd collected in New York.

After receiving a rejection notice from ABC/Dunhill (which he later framed and placed on a wall next to his first gold record award[3644]) Croce signed-on with the label and his first album, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, was released in July 1972. It was an instant hit yielding two hit singles, the title cut and the single Operator.[3642] Croce later said he wrote both hit songs while in a truck cab during a construction job.[3644]

His second album Life and Times included the hit song Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, and Croce expanded his career to include television and film work. Croce said he wrote Leroy Brown at home and it was based on a real character.[3644]

Croce's third album I've Got a Name was released on July 23, 1973 and the title cut was part of the movie soundtrack for The Last American Hero. That year Croce moved his family to San Diego, California.

Photographs & Memories

On September 20, 1973, after completing a concert at Northwestern State University's Prather Coliseum in Natchitoches, Louisiana, Croce and five others were killed when their single-engine plane hit a tree upon takeoff. Jim Croce was 30.[3644]

After his death, Croce's music became exceedingly popular and he gained fame posthumously. The following albums were released after Croce's death:


Jim Croce Photographs & Memories: His Greatest Hits(97204)

Live Albums

Have You Heard: Jim Croce Live - 2006
Jim Croce Live: The Final Tour - 1980

Compilation Albums 

The Very Best of Jim Croce - 2007
The Way We Used to Be: The Anthology - 2004
Classic Hits - 2004
Home Recordings: Americana - 2003
VH1 Behind the Music: The Jim Croce Collection - 2001
The Definitive Collection: "Time in a Bottle" - 2000
Words and Music - 1999
24 Karat Gold in a Bottle - 1994
The 50th Anniversary Collection - 1992
Collection - 1986
The Legendary Jim Croce - 1978
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown: Jim Croce's Greatest Character Songs - 1978
Time in a Bottle: Jim Croce's Greatest Love Songs - 1977
Greatest Hits: Released - 1975
The Faces I've Been - 1975
Down the Highway - 1975
Photographs & Memories: His Greatest Hits – 1974 

In addition to the posthumous albums, several hit singles were released, including: "I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song"; "Workin' At The Car Wash Blues"; "New York's Not My Home"; "Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy)"; "Lover's Cross" and "Photographs And Memories." 

Jim Croce Anthology - the stories behind the songs
Jim Croce - Anthology 

Croce's widow Ingrid owns Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar located in the historic Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego.  She also published a book titled "Jim Croce Anthology - the stories behind the songs" chronicling the history behind 40 of Croce's best loved tunes.[3645] Croce's son A.J., like his famous dad, is an accomplished singer/songwriter and musician. 

Jim Croce: Lyrical Poet.

Jim Croce Anthology: The Stories Behind the Songs
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Jim Croce

New York's Not My Home - YouTube


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May 3, 2012 12:54pm
Rated upppp! What a wonderful reminiscence. I could just hear the words and rhythms to his songs as I read this. He led an interesting life, thanks for this.
May 3, 2012 3:37pm
Thanks so much footloose! I still listen to Croce's music and introduced my teens to it. When my youngest asked what I was writing about, I told her Jim Croce, she then started singing "Bad, bad, Leroy Brown . . ."
May 3, 2012 1:54pm
I remember growing up to Jim Croce music in the 1970's...and I remember when he died. Thanks for a great tribute to a talented singer who was gone all too soon.
May 3, 2012 3:44pm
I discovered Croce years after his death and it still saddened me. I remember listening to one of his songs over and over to the point that I wrote all the words down in a school notebook. He was such a talent and I'm so glad we can still enjoy his classics today. Thanks for the comment MMM!
May 3, 2012 8:46pm
Thanks for this nice biography. Croce's talent lives on.
May 4, 2012 11:23am
I agree! Croce's amazing talent for writing and performing his own music was colossal and his songs are timeless. Thanks so much davwrite.
May 5, 2012 5:44pm
Croce was always a favorite of mine. This article was interesting and well written.
May 5, 2012 5:54pm
Yup, Croce was one of the best. Thank you, AJ and welcome to InfoBarrel! ;o)
May 22, 2012 3:21pm
The great thing I get from this article is that you should never give up on your dreams! Failing is only a learning lesson for the next round. Thanks for the bio.
May 22, 2012 3:33pm
So true! Thanks for the comment.
May 24, 2012 11:23am
I thoroughly enjoyed this look at Jim Croce. Nice job! I loved his music because it always told a story. He was an immense talent. Imagine the career he might have had if he had broken into the business earlier?
May 24, 2012 2:23pm
I agree wholeheartedly! Thanks so much divaonline!
Jun 15, 2012 4:19pm
Wonderful article. I was humming "Time in a Bottle" as I read it. Thank you so much!
Jun 18, 2012 10:06am
Jim Croce wrote and recorded so many memorable songs, Time in a Bottle is one of my favorites. Thanks Deb!
Jun 29, 2012 3:16pm
Congrats on another Featured Article!
Jul 11, 2012 9:15pm
Thanks so much!
Mar 14, 2014 10:13pm
Oh, I used to play Time in a Bottle on the piano. I was so saddened that he died. He had such a natural gift and his voice is so recognizable. I sure wonder who Leroy Brown really is (or was) in real life. Thumbs, pinning, and more.
Mar 16, 2014 6:12pm
Thanks so much, Rose!
Mar 14, 2014 10:38pm
The only songs I bothered to memorize. Love his words.
Mar 16, 2014 6:12pm
Me too, thanks!
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  1. "Jim Croce Biography." Jim Croce The Official Site. 1/05/2012 <Web >
  2. "Jim Croce, 1943-73 From The Village Voice." Jim Croce The Official Site. 1/05/2012 <Web >
  3. "Jim Croce, five Others Die in Plane Crash." Jim Croce The Official Site. 1/05/2012 <Web >
  4. "Ingrid Croce Shares Thoughts About Writing Anthology." Jim Croce The Official Site. 1/05/2012 <Web >

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