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Jim Croce Celebrates Birthday In Heaven with Lord Byron, Singing Bawdy Ballads Says Ingrid Croce

I_Got_A_Name_WebI Got A Name: The Jim Croce Story
Ingrid Croce with Jimmy Rock
(DaCapo)

Decades after Jim Croce’s death, his widow, Ingrid Croce, felt it the right time to let his narrative be told. In true love story prose, I Got A Name: the Jim Croce Story stands as a timeless entity in the literary world, highlighting one of folk’s most beloved musicians. Star-crossed lovers from the start, Jim and Ingrid’s relationship would be thwarted by family, death, rape, money and fame—yet in the end, no force could separate one from the other’s embrace. Their love of music was the pith of their relationship, but at times, it would be that very same music that would drive them apart. 

What’s visible here is Ingrid’s honesty, which allows the reader to not only experience the smiles that Jim brought her, but also the tears. As an audience, we invest in their love affair and lean when they fall. When Manhattan industry execs antagonistically take advantage of Jim’s music, it’s quite clear why he wrote “New York’s Not My Home” and even when he sold out shows and hit the charts, Jim would still take the blow; perhaps that explains the acidity in “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim.”

Imagery wonderfully moves the plot in a series of cinematic portraits where we run into characters along the way: the blue-collar workers from the amphetamine-driven truck stops in “Speedball Tucker,” the homeless man Jim offers to buy a cup of coffee with his last dollar in “Box #10,” the mean junkyard dog of “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” as well as “Leroy” himself, who Jim meets while in the army. In musician Maury Muehleisen, we have the unsung hero and in Ingrid, we have the beautiful muse for it was she who stood at the end of the receiving line in “Operator,” her news of pregnancy that triggered “Time In A Bottle,” and ultimately her love that brought Jim down to his knees in “I’ll Have to Say I Love You In A Song.” Ingrid doesn’t just cite facts; we are treated to Jim’s words, plain and simple and the experiences that fostered the music. Saved love letters, press clippings and a foreword by Arlo Guthrie enhance this memoir.

Finally, when you take that phone call with Ingrid in the last chapter informing her of the plane crash that took Jim’s life, it hits as hard now as it did in 1973; perhaps because, never before has Jim Croce been so perfectly presented in portraiture. An introverted man who poured his heart and soul for the world to see, Jim still had so much to say. Luckily, Ingrid has been so much more than kind to bring us closer.

Today, Ingrid proudly runs Croce’s, in San Diego, which dually boasts  as a restaurant and jazz bar to keep the spirit of Jim well and alive.

What do you miss the most about Jim?

Ingrid: The thing I miss most about Jim is singing with him. I miss the two of us sitting around the kitchen table, writing and singing. And of course, I miss his sense of his humor.

How would you celebrate Jim’s birthday if he were with us?

Ingrid: There are couple of options. I would make him his favorite dinner and invite all of his eclectic friends to the house like we used to do or better yet, today we could go to Croce’s Jazz Bar and oh, he would love to just entertain everyone there and sing his songs. He wouldn’t just be singing his songs, it would be everyone from Nat King Cole to Jimmy Rogers to probably some of [our son] AJ’s songs.

What was his favorite dinner?

Ingrid: Jim loved all kinds of food, but primarily sweet bread, lasagna, and broccoli rabe; he loved broccoli rabe even back then with all that oil and garlic. His mom used to make that for him and it was his favorite. 

Who do you think he’s up there with celebrating his birthday?

Ingrid: I’m sure he’d be up there, drinking some wine and who knows what he’d be smoking, but definitely the wine. As far as who would he be in Heaven with, he’d probably be with the comedians Lord Byron and Lord Buckley, the three of them singing bawdy ballads. I could see Jim sitting with them doing that kind of thing. He’d probably also want to get together with Jimmy Rogers, and probably some historical figures like Washington, and Lincoln. Jim loved history. Thank you, Melissa. I’m so glad Jim’s birthday is not going unnoticed.

 – Melissa Caruso

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