You and Jim seemed to be very much in love. You certainly had music in common from the start, but what else do you think attracted you to each other? Were there specific songs that express Jim's feelings, and yours?We both mirrored each other wonderfully. He was strong where I wasn't and vice versa. I was attracted to Jim's intelligence, his humor, his storytelling, his generosity and how he loved to share his gift of song. He liked my freedom and candidness, my voice, my strength and, strangely enough, my serious ways.
In the beginning the similarities were prominent and the juices were flowing with songs like "You'll Know You're a Man, When You Love Maryann," "Child of Midnight," "Vespers," "I Remember Her," and "Alabama Rain."
But then, as much as we had in common, that's about how much we were different, too. Jim was very patient with me. While he avoided my questions, he though my seriousness was comical. He really tried hard to get me to see life through his eyes, to relax and enjoy it more.
Of all the gifts Jim gave to me, with the exception of our son Adrian James, his lesson, to live life to its fullest and not be too self-important, is the one I hold dearest of all. Like I say in Thyme in a Bottle, "Since there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, then why not just enjoy the time you have."
Can you relate the story behind the song "Operator"?I'll let Jim do that. This is another quote from one of his raps:
"I got the idea for writing "Operator" by standing outside of the PX waiting to use one of theoutdoor phones. There wasn't a phone booth; it was just stuck up on the side of the building andthere were about 200 guys in each line waiting to make a phone call back home to see if their‘Dear John' letter was true, and with their raincoat over their heads covering the telephone andeverything, and it really seemed that so many people were going through the same experience,going through the same kind of change, and to see this happen especially on something like thetelephone and talking to a long-distance operator-this kinda registered. And when I got out of theArmy I was working in a bar where there was a telephone directly behind where I was playing andI couldn't help but be disturbed by it all the time, and I noticed that the same kind of thing wasgoin' on. People checkin' up on somebody or finding out who was – what was goin' on, but alwaystalkin to the operator. And I decided that I would write a song about it. But I didn't really startgetting the idea for the song itself, the real outline of it, until I was doing the construction workafter I got out of the music business the first time, and I started carrying a cassette machine inthe truck. I started ‘Operator' on the way back, one afternoon, just singin' into a cassettemachine. But it's-it's one of those songs that kinda comes out of experiences that you watch for along time, just to see if they're really valid. I kinda like to write songs about things that a lot ofpeople have experience with, because it really makes the songs communicate."
How did Jim come to record "I Got a Name," one of the very few songs he did not write or co-write with you?Charlie Fox and Norman Gimbel wrote "I Got a Name" for the movie Last American Hero. Jim wasselected to sing the title song and it was an uncommon experience for him, and a littleuncomfortable. As beautifully as Jim sang, he was very self-conscious without his guitar in hand.When he did these tracks, he did them solo, standing in front of a professional orchestra, and hetold me he really felt insecure.
After Jim came home from the studio, he played my three different versions of the soundtrack hedid of "I Got a Name." They were beautiful, and he was very proud of the tracks he put down. Hejust hoped, he said, that the songwriters and producers would be happy with his work.
Jim reveals a social consciousness in songs such as "The Migrant Worker" and "Railroad Song."Were you both politically active at the time?Who wasn't politically active in the sixties? But that wasn't the impetus of these songs. The realstory is that after Jim and I moved up to New York to do our Capitol album Jim and Ingrid Croce,we toured as much as we could, performing many college concerts and clubs across the country topromote the music and to make a living too.
When we returned from the road, we rented a small apartment in the Bronx and, unable to get anywork for a long time, we were just hanging out, practicing, writing a bit and waiting forsomething good to happen.
One day we got a call from a Boston TV station who thought that Jim and I might have the talent todo a children's show. They were thinking about a program that used songs the tell the history ofAmerica to children, and Jim and I were thrilled by the opportunity. We both had taught inschools and had worked at summer camps with kids. Jim was terrific at teaching through musicand had actually come up with a method to teach kids reading with music.
We wrote about thirty-three songs in a week or two. And we recorded them in a couple of days in aNew York studio. Among these songs were "The Migrant Worker" and "Railroads and Riverboats."The tape was submitted to the TV producers but the unfortunate thing was that Hoagy Carmichaelgot the show instead of us. The good news is, we have all the songs!
What motivated Jim to record American classics, such as "This Land is Your Land," "GreenbackDollar," and "Old Man River"?The persona of the tough, cigar-smokin' son of a gun was a character in Jim Croce songs. But thereal Jim Croce was an historian, a scholar and a genius with a photographic memory. Jim had anenormous ability to understand myth and its power. He loved the folk music of Woody Guthrie andthe bawdy ballads of Robert Burns and classics like "Old Man River" because they moved him andthey could move others.
In your book you say that Jim's music "profiled the man best. His songs were the vehicle thatmost truly translated his essence." Is this why people form such a strong bond with hissongs-because they feel that they know him and that he's singing just for them?Yes, exactly. And they do know him. His music came from his soul. And Jim was soextraordinarily generous, he gave everything he had to people.
Although Jim Croce did not, by any means, set out to teach us how to live our lives, many of hissongs act as metaphors for our times. He wasn't trying to instruct. He was just living his lifewith all the gusto he know how. It made us feel good to be around him-and his music. I believe JimCroce has left a lasting imprint on our American musical history, but best of all, he left uslaughing-and that would make Jim very happy.
Anecdotes From the Early Years
From Rocky Beginnings...
The Story Behind "I'll Have to Say I Love You In a Song"
Why Jim Croce Wrote "Operator"
Liner Notes from the Definitive Jim Croce Collection
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