“Art, like life, is all about the journey. How do you really know when you’re finished?”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way we use art to tell stories. How music is the purest form of communication, and our dearest instruments carry the weight of our histories.
Bruce Springsteen is one of those musicians that uses the craft to tell his truth. Just like Jim Croce, he understands the importance of a great guitar!
This past month, Jimmy and I boarded a plane for New York to see Bruce in his autobiographical show, Springsteen on Broadway.
Some years back, Jim Croce’s producer introduced us to Phil Petello (and for all you guitar nerds, yes – that Phil Petello! Of the “Petillo Precision Fret!”) In addition to being a prolific designer, he was a guitar-maker, or luthier, who crafted some of Jim’s favorite instruments, and Bruce Springsteen’s, as well.
Phil has passed away, but his son, David, is still carrying on the family business – and serving as Springsteen on Broadway’s chief guitar technician. With an invitation to attend the show and guest passes, we arrived at the theater and settled into a crowd that Jimmy aptly identified as a “rapt audience of true believers.” And within no time, I believed him!
I loved it. I think it’s the storyline that truly reeled me in, the troubadour tradition. The show consists of Bruce discussing his life, interspersed with all acoustic versions of his songs. The way that art and life were woven together – music driving his vocation, his career, his family: that resonated with me.
Also, Bruce’s wife & partner, Patti, joined him on stage for a few songs. It’s a special thing making music with someone you love, it’s like making love. I started thinking – how our songs and our life stories are so intimately intertwined. That maybe, we’re all writing our lives into one big songbook.
Afterwards, Bruce and Patti invited us backstage to catch up. I was moved when Bruce and I shared our memories of Phil and connections across time.
It was a magical night that we will never forget.
I was 18 years old the first time I went to New York City with Jim Croce.
I have so many memories of New York, and there are a few that I’m especially fond of. I used to go on shopping trips with my Mom as a child. We purchased the dresses for my grandmother Mary Greenberg’s store in South Philadelphia. I remember the colors of the fabrics, the patterns that would become inspiration for my artwork. I break into a grin every time I think back to my Mother taking my twin sister and me to the Russian Tea Room near Carnegie Hall. When we were 8 or 9 years old, we had chicken kiev for the first time – and I’d never tasted anything so delicious!
But there was some extra-special-magic-stuff that first time as an “adult,” when I visited New York with Jim.
We were just two kids from Pennsylvania who drove our VW up with a few dollars in our pockets. We were performing at the time back home – at the Main Point, the 2nd Fret, and college auditoriums across Pennsylvania.
There was something so electric about New York City. As we walked through Greenwich Village, we started talking about our careers taking off here.
It was September, and we had intended to go to the Feast of San Gennaro. We shared a pepper and egg sandwich (we couldn’t afford more than one). And holy cannoli! Oh my God, the best cannolis ever.
New York represented the pinnacle of so many dreams, for me – fashion, Broadway, and food! But there was no substitute for the yearning to be a part of its music scene.
That night, Jim and I went to The Bitter End for the first time. It was a dark, bewitching space – only 200 or so seats, and all of us packed in to watch the latest singer-songwriter take her vulnerable spot on stage, in front of an iconic brick wall. It was full of bearded men & booted women.
I knew, immediately, that I wanted to play there. We ultimately did get our turn!
When it was our time, Jim and I performed songs from our Capitol album, “Jim & Ingrid Croce.” Some of my favorite songs, “Spin Spin Spin,” “Just Another Day,” and “Marianne.” Every time I hear my solo song, “The Next Man That I Marry,” my heart breaks a little bit for back then.
The best folk music distills moments into myth, allowing us to experience a deeper feeling – to share another’s journey and make it our own.
My time in New York with Jim has taken on its own, mythic quality.
I can now share it with you, as the the storyteller & songbook writer.
“Life’s challenges aren’t interruptions. They’re the wellspring of creativity and inspiration.”
The day after we saw Bruce, Jimmy and I set out to explore old haunts. We try to revisit New York at least once a year and never tire of experiencing it’s deep history (as well as our own).
We stayed at The Excelsior, on the Upper West Side. The weather was a little on the warm side, so we were able to walk a good ten miles each day. We went back to E.A.T. and I had chicken soup & matzo balls (and Jimmy doesn’t remember what he had, but it included wine!) We met Jimmy’s sister, Linda, and her husband, Lee, who live in Connecticut. And we lunched down in Soho, at Park Avenue Autumn.
We went to the Metropolitan Museum (two days in a row!) to explore the cartoonish fabulosity of Michael Hart Benton’s industrial expressionism before visiting our favorite gallery, Michael Rockefeller’s exceptional collection from Papua New Guinea. We also visited a gallery of ceramics, including pottery produced in Archaic and Classical Greece.
Marveling at their perfection, and viewing the oldest vessels, the time and intention that went into crafting each piece provoked an “aha” moment for me!
As soon as I was back in San Diego, I went to my Ceramics class, to the wheel & to throwing with renewed inspiration. I’m getting more confident with the process of the wheel and expressing it in my work.
Nostalgia provokes the best of the present – and as much as I long for the days at The Bitter End, I’m making new art. And trying for work that pulls on memory, to fold in what has always been dear to me. As I always say, “in my head, it’s all layered, and it all exists at the same time.”
I’ve kept everything in my life so that it can resonate again and again.
I hope that everything in your life – the setbacks and the joys and the youth and the breaking through – resonate, again, in new and beautiful ways.