Croce Young Jim Croce (sans his iconic stache) with his wife Ingrid who co-wrote I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story.

Capturing Croce

Widow of legendary artist finally shares his life story

By Chris Jay 12/06/2012

With a mix of heartfelt ballads and lovable character-driven songs, Jim Croce helped usher in the laid-back singer-songwriter craze of the 1970s. But during his lifetime, his commercial success only lasted about two years.  Since his untimely and tragic death in a plane crash at the age of 30 — which left his wife to raise their young son, battle medical problems and spend years in litigation — his legend and popularity have grown to heights that would have been hard for him to imagine while he was alive.

Nearly 40 years since his passing, many of his songs — “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” “Time in a Bottle,”  “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song” — have now become standards covered by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dolly Parton. His music is still regularly heard in TV and films, including a hilarious sequence in the hit comedy The Hangover II.

Due to the honest and easygoing nature of his songs and his on-stage personality, his fans — old and new — often feel as if they knew Croce personally, even though in reality he was an intensely private person. The denim-wearing, curly-haired artist who grew up in a strict Italian family was always quick to tell a rehearsed story or a joke instead of revealing his true self in interviews and appearances.

That’s why a biography, though well-deserved and long overdue, has always been considered a difficult task. It would take someone like his widow, Ingrid, to be able to tell his story beyond the music with the incredible new book I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story.

Co-authored with her husband Jimmy Rock, it’s the ultimate insider look at Croce’s short but remarkable life. The book is part love story, part tragedy, part inspirational and a fitting tribute to a surprisingly complex individual.

I Got a Name is so open, with Ingrid remembering private conversations, that at times it reads more like a screenplay. Detailing the couple’s meeting and courtship, their time as a duo slogging it out in venues across the country, the many day jobs Croce worked  (including a stint in the military, which served as inspiration for several of his songs’ characters), his sudden celebrity and its impact on his wife and young son, the story is told from a unique firsthand perspective by someone who shared in the good, the bad and even the ugly.

Perhaps most revealing, for those who have put Jim on a pedestal on the merit of his songs alone, Ingrid also reveals Jim’s humanity; and his personal life wasn’t always summed up as easily as his songs. From the harrowing account of Ingrid’s rape and Jim’s less-than-admirable reaction to the incident, to his drug use and indiscretions on the road, it’s a portrayal that’s not always flattering but important for truly understanding the man beyond the songs.

I Got a Name is a book that’s as honest, moving, funny, sad and inspirational as Jim Croce’s songs themselves, and it’s a notable entry in the world of music biographies. 

Ingrid Croce will be signing copies of I Got A Name: The Jim Croce Story at Salzer’s Records, 5777 Valentine Road, Ventura, on Thursday, Dec.13, from 6 to 8 p.m.  For more information, call 639-2160.



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