If Jim Croce Were Still alive
I remember the day Jim Croce died. It was three days after my 14th birthday. I remember hearing about it before walking up to the busstop with “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” playing in my head, figuratively, not literally as we didn’t have portable music devices save for a transitor radio.
I had gotten his record album ‘Life and Times’ for Christmas the year before and practically wore it out listening to it. It’s still one of the few albums that I can listen to straight thru, each song invoking a different memory from that time, some good, some not. But that is the power of a great artist and great music. My favorite song of his is “I Got a Name”, an athem to individualism. “Operator” and “New York’s Not my Home” are very powerful also. The popular “Time in a Bottle” is not really one of my faves, tho I understand why it is probably his most popular. I can go very deep in the Croce catalog before I hit a clunker.
I saw today on Twitter a posting from @AXSTVConcerts with a simple picture of Croce walking down a rural road wearing blue jeans and a CAT (Caterpillar) jacket and carrying his guitar. It read simply ‘No.1 in 1973'. His typically salt-of-the-earth personage, that by most accounts I’ve found to be true. It was part of his attraction. He was like most of us, but he could write great songs.
And that got me to thinking about what and where he would be if his plane hadn’t hit that tree in Natchitoches, LA. (Is it just me or does seem an inordinate amount of rock stars have died in plane crashes in Louisiana, but I digress). What direction would his career have taken? Would it be the good timing, beer drinking, pool shooting Leroy Brown rout like one of my other favorite bands ‘Little Feat’ took after Lowell George died. That seems like the easy, gig-for-life rout. Would fame have engulfed him and he looses his ‘fastball’ writing soul touching ballads and turning out bar song after bar song that really have no meaning. Or would he still have the ability put into song what each one of feels at different times? His last album ‘I Got a Name’ showed signs of possibly giving in to the record producing machine that I hear about, but still a great album. Or would he be passed over for others, touring here and there singing his classics.
Unfortunately, we will never know. We are left with his legacy of great songs. And memories. I was lucky to be a kid growing up in Littleton, Colorado at the time I did. And lucky to have Jim Croce as a part of that. His songs remain my friend to this day.