It’s hard to believe that one of rock’s most tragic tales – the untimely death of Jim Croce – has never been told faithfully in book form. This changed with the recent release of I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story – written by the late singer-songwriter’s widow, Ingrid Croce, with her current husband, Jimmy Rock. Published by Da Capo Press, the book paints an extremely revealing portrait of the musician behind the hits “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” “Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels),” and “Time in a Bottle,” who died at the age of 30 in a plane crash.
The book has been a long time coming; initial work began 25 years ago, but when an earlier publisher and Ingrid didn’t see eye-to-eye, the manuscript was shelved. “Last year, we took out the book, and it was time,” Ingrid tells Rolling Stone. “It was overdue for many fans who kept asking for it. We read it and we felt really pretty good about it. The story was there.”
“It was a painful story to tell. It wasn’t easy to make it a story that you could put in what was there, but also still make sure the fans felt good with the story, and I feel that Jimmy and I were able to do that,” she adds. “I feel we captured Jim Croce the best we possibly could. The thing about Jim that was wonderful was he was so funny and charismatic. [Readers] will know who Jim Croce was. They’ll know things they certainly never knew, and that’s important for them to learn ‘the round’ Jim Croce – not the flat, two-dimensional one.”
In the biography, Ingrid doesn’t turn away from exposing the troubled side of her late husband, including his difficulty coming to terms with the fact that she was raped while studying abroad in Mexico. “After the rape, I think the way in which he felt about us was definitely tainted, and it was hard for him. It was hard for me, because back then, women, it was their fault – no matter what happened. For him, it was this rage that he couldn’t really understand.”
I Got a Name also explains how Jim was under intense pressure in the last year of his life, being both overworked and underpaid (receiving only $200 a week). “Jim had a real hard time saying no. And people who were aware of that were in a very good position to push.” Ingrid believes that her late husband had a bright and creative future ahead of him. “Jim was prolific beyond prolific. There was never a time when we weren’t doing music – 12 hours a day, minimum. But I think that Jim was really getting into writing, and he wanted to do movies,” she reveals. “He could have been a stand-up comic. When he opened for Woody Allen or George Carlin, they were a little afraid to get on stage [after Croce], because his humor was so unique. He was asked to be the summer replacement for Johnny Carson [on The Tonight Show] – that’s why we moved out to San Diego. He would have done an enormous amount of things.”
Readers will also learn more about Croce’s co-guitarist, Maury Muehleisen, who died in the same 1973 plane crash. “Maury was one of the most unusually talented human beings I’ve ever met. He could sing anything and play any instrument. He was a classically trained pianist, and he’d only been playing a couple of years before he got a record deal. There was a period where Jim was backing Maury, and then because things changed, Maury started to back Jim.”
Ingrid hopes that I Got a Name will eventually lead to a Jim Croce biopic. “We already have a soundtrack! So now it’s just filling in the story. Yes, I would love to do a movie of Jim. I think he deserves it, and God knows we’ve had more fans ask for it than you can imagine. That, and ‘Why is Jim not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?'”