The Croce’s expressed a generation’s thoughts on every issue and experience – they created a moratorium of a time. We cherish the songs and memories they conjure.
-Sherarn Wuerfel, Rolling Stone
The best music, like the best art, comes from an authentic and honest place. In the Croce home, music is our religion. We believe that art & song have the power to shape all good things: to fuel expansive movements; to soundtrack quiet moments.
So where are you going, when will you know? That life is for living, it isn’t a show.
WHEN I WAS JUST A LITTLE GIRL
Though my parents divorced when we were five, and it was a rocky childhood in Philadelphia, there was always music in my life.
My mother played the piano for a local television show, “The Magic Lady.” My father was a kind and intelligent man — with a soft spot for songbirds! My twin sister, Phyllis, and I would sing along as he played the harmonica.
When my mother died, I was only 16. My father passed away three years later. The tragedy prepared me to brave the artist’s path. I was determined to find meaning and purpose through music and art.
Today, when I close my eyes, I see the vivid patterns and colors of my grandmother’s dress shop: the lifelong inspirations for my collage. And I hear my father’s unwavering advice – to “follow my passion” – which gave me the courage to pursue my dreams.
MEETING JIM CROCE
At twenty years old, Jim Croce was a charismatic and romantic Italian-Catholic troubadour who just happened to be driving down the street where I’d lodged my car in a snowbank. He caught my sixteen-year-old self in his headlights.
Late for a talent competition – and with a backseat full of cadets! – I knew immediately that the man laughing as I shoveled my tires free would become my partner, and my first true love.
At a small Philadelphia house party, where we first performed live together, I enjoyed the intensity and honesty of Jim’s voice. The tone, the meter –the excellence of his music. I was happy to sign up to play his muse.
As musicians in the 1960s, we were bohemians: performing the college concert circuit and at hootenannies and bars that erupted into near-riots! We signed to Capitol Records and toured venues across the country in our VW bug. Jim Croce tapped a blue collar nerve. His music was an Everyman’s journey, and I loved when he told raucous stories on stage, exuding warmth and humility.
By 1971, Jim had achieved national recognition. While he performed on The Tonight Show, I settled into a farmhouse in Lyndell, Pennsylvania, building our home as he built his career. Jim wrote at our kitchen table, composing lyrics in his notebook – to “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” – his last attempts to “make it” in the music business. The same week I found out that I was pregnant with our son, Adrian James, Jim sat down and wrote “Time In A Bottle.”
On September 20, 1973, when Jim’s plane crashed in Natchitoches, Louisiana, “Time In A Bottle” took on a new meaning.
I find strength in the timelessness of Jim’s music, resonating long after Jim’s short time with us. It was many years before I felt whole again, but I think that Jim Croce’s music is a comfort to us all. He makes us feel like we are with him.
It was many years before I felt whole again, but I think that Jim Croce’s music is a comfort to us all. He makes us feel like we are with him.
RAISING AJ CROCE
After Jim’s death, in 1973, AJ and I settled in Southern California. The following decade was a terribly litigious time. I raised my son as a single mother with divided attentions. Every opportunity we had, AJ and I made travel our prize.
As a child, AJ found refuge in the piano, practicing for upwards of 12 hours each day. Though blindness plagued his youth, music fueled his deep sense of purpose. It was only a matter of time before he evolved into a prolific musician.
AJ’s a searcher. An inquisitive spirit. He draws inspiration from the world around him, exploring a diversity of American musical traditions.
When I watch him perform – whether in his hometown of Nashville or across the globe – I’m reminded of the power of music as liberation. As Odetta once said: “You’re walking down life’s road, society’s foot is on your throat…and you reach a fork in the road and you can either lie down and die, or insist upon your life.”
MEETING JIMMY ROCK
When I was just a girl, Jimmy Rock was an Iowa farm boy — playing drums in local bands and dreaming of life outside the Midwest. Through the study of law, he made his way across the country and settled in San Diego.
There are chance encounters that dramatically alter the course of your life. Jimmy sitting at Table 21 of Croce’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar was a defining moment of mine. It took until my 40th birthday for us to meet at the restaurant and I vowed never to be involved with another musician or attorney again (Jimmy was both!). And yet, his deep love of the soulful spirit of the ’60s bonded us, instantly.
Along with, of course, Jimmy’s love of Dylan. Jimmy says my artwork is like a Bob Dylan song – where everything happens at once and is open to interpretation. I say that Jimmy Rock is my muse and guardian angel!
Married 30 years last Thanksgiving, Jimmy and I have run a restaurant business, co-authored Jim Croce’s biography, and grand-parented two exceptional grandchildren, Camille and Elijah.We find profound peace in our yearly trip to Tahiti and the spontaneous sessions where we break into song.
Jimmy’s imbued with a (mostly!) easygoing, humorous nature, and encourages me to find the positive motivation in any mistake or misstep. He reminds me that life’s challenges aren’t interruptions — they’re the wellspring of creativity and inspiration.
I find strength in my family and the challenges we’ve overcome. Throughout it all, we kept singing! Whatever you’re inspired to do – paint, dance the ballet, or (lucky you!) make music – don’t be discouraged by life’s disappointments.
The real prison is in your mind. Never believe a prediction that doesn’t empower you.