I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story by Ingrid Croce and Jimmy Rock (Da Capo, $25.00, 307 pages)
In I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story, the wife of the late singer-songwriter has put together a moving, direct, and fully engaging biography. The 300 pages seem to fly by and Ingrid Croce – assisted by her second husband Jimmy Rock – has done something that most musician biographers fail to do. She uses the lyrics to 33 Jim Croce songs to demonstrate how the events in Croce’s life directly shaped his music.
Jim Croce knew individuals named Leroy Brown, Big Jim Walker and Willie McCoy; they were not just figments of a wild imagination. His ballads and love songs were usually based on the often contentious relationship between himself and Ingrid. One story told by Ingrid reads like a scene out of film… Jim and Ingrid have a major dispute, and Jim walks away leaving her sobbing in the bedroom. A couple of hours later, by way of apology, he returns to sing her a song he has just written – I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song.
Ingrid does not pull any punches about Jim’s flaws. He had a lot of anger (much of it having to do with his parent’s insistence that he not “waste” his college education on a music career), abused prescription medication, and was often unfaithful… However, her love for him as a person shines through on every page of this sometimes emotional work.
One of the shocks for the reader is finding out that while Croce made millions of dollars for his record company, he never saw any of it during his short life of 30 years. Near the end of his life, he had no more than $40 in his pocket, saved out of a weekly travel per diem of just $200. It took years and decades of litigation for Ingrid to receive what was due.
“I know he will be with me forever.”
It was shortly before his death in an airplane crash that Croce appeared to be coming apart at the seams. (A psychic had earlier told him that his son would be raised with only one parent.) He wrote a letter of love and regrets to Ingrid: “I know that I haven’t been very nice to you for some time… I know that you see me for what I am…” It was a letter that she was to receive after his death.
Croce also told Ingrid in the letter of his plan to separate himself from life on the road and rededicate himself to his wife and toddler son: “…I want to be the oldest man around, a man with a face full of wrinkles and lots of wisdom. Give a kiss to my little man and tell him Daddy loves him. Remember, it’s the first sixty years that count and I’ve got thirty to go. I love you.”
A long life was not to be, but we have Jim Croce’s amazing music to remember him by. We now also have this loving remembrance from a strong, but still somewhat heartbroken, woman.
A review copy was received from the publisher. The Foreward to I Got a Name was written by Arlo Guthrie.
Note: The song I Got a Name, featured so well in the film Invincible (set in Jim Croce’s hometown of Philadelphia), was the one song sung by Croce that he did not write.