Born on this day in suburban Philadelphia, singer/ songwriter Jim Croce (1943-1973) had a wide smile and wrote lyrics with aching honesty, clever wit, and remarkable beauty.
"People just want to hear good time music," Croce once said.
His tragic death in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana, happened just as he had achieved enormous pop success.
Fame took its time for the singer. Before hitting it big with 1972's You Don't Mess Around with Jim, Croce graduated with a psychology degree, earned small change as a coffeehouse singer, and worked as a summer camp counselor, construction worker, truck driver, and remedial teacher.
Such varied exposure helped inspire his songwriting, including the #1 hit, Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.
"Leroy was based on real characters," Croce said about an Army buddy. "The jobs I've had attract characters."
His music blended folk and rock with gentle... and honest... delight. He wrote songs for us to sing along.
When asked by an interviewer to describe himself, the loveable (that smile), self-deprecating Croce replied sincerely, "I'm just me, plain folk, just like everyone else."
His humility made him that much more special. A tough guy with a gentle heart, his lyrics lightened and celebrated the human spirit. (Thank you, Aunty Georgia, for inspiring me with your love for Jim Croce.)
Croce's friend, singer Don McLean said, "He was someone worth admiring because of his essential goodness. I miss him and think of him often."
Life is precious. Live it while you can.