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New book looks at singer-songwriter Jim Croce's too-short life

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Cover of the book "I've Got A Name: The Jim Croce Story."
Cover of the book "I've Got A Name: The Jim Croce Story."

Jim Croce's widow, Ingrid Croce, talks to Take Two about her husband's music, his untimely death and her new book, "I Got A Name."

In 1973 the song "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" was released by the singer songwriter Jim Croce. Immediately the song became a hit and made him a household name, but only months later he was killed in an airplane crash at just 30 years old.

We speak to his widow, Ingrid Croce, who's just written a new book entitled, "I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story."

Interview Highlights:

On their young marriage and Jim's early career:
"A psych major with a German minor. I don't know what kind of job you would get with that, that's what his father was thinking. Jim was the eldest in his family, his father was the eldest son of 11 kids. And in our generation, especially back then, education was extremely important to get a good job. His parent had really sacrificed and did a lot to help Jim to become a college student. For him to just kind of take that education and not appreciate it was not something that made them feel good about it. I certainly was supportive of it, but I always new his music was incredibly special, the way he sang, the stories that he told, he was charismatic and funny as hell and really bright. It was a very different time though. People like Bob Dylan and people like the Beatles were finally making a career in music, and a lot of young people were thinking, 'Gosh I'd love to do that, i don't want to get a desk job, let me get a job doing what I love to do.' And back then it actually could happen."

On Jim and Ingrid Croce's big break:
"We did, we both sang and wrote together, but quite honestly it was not my dream to become a singer songwriter. My dream was to be an artist, that was what I wanted to do, but Jim's dream, more than anything in the world, he wanted to writs songs and do music. So when I was in my senior year, my father passed away, and Jim had promised my dad that he would put me through school. He came to me very hesitantly, we'd been offered an opportunity to do an album on Capitol Records. He came to me very tentatively and said, 'what do you think?' I said of course we have to do this, this is your turn, this is your chance to finally do something you'd been dreaming of doing your whole life. Let'e go to New York City and let's do this. We did an album called Jim and Ingrid Croce in 1969, we went on a college concert circuit for bout a year and a half, almost two years. The album wasn't actually even out yet and there we were trying to promote an album that wasn't on the road. It was one of the best times of my life, I just had just a ball."

On an early tragedy that challenged their marriage:
"When we first got married, shortly after that I had won a fellowship to go to Mexico, and while I was in Mexico, before Jim was able to leave his day gig, he decided that he would stay and I would go to Mexico and he would meet me there. Sadly while I was there I was raped. I was petrified back then to say anything to Jim right away, certainly I wanted to tell him in person. It was a very frightening situation. Back then and sometimes even today, rape wasn't something that was discussed and i was really nervous about telling Jim. When I did it was devastating to him. He was filled with anger, he was filled with sadness."

On how Jim and Ingrid healed from her assault:
When this happened there was an enormous distance between us. Up to that point from the time I was 16 til I was just about 20, we were extremely close. We breathed together, we did everything together. It just kind of put a divide between us. I recognized this as an opportunity to go on the road with Jim and to just be the two of us that would really get us closer. And it did. Singing together all the time every single night for over a year and a half was just great. Over 100,000 miles a year we were in a little green Volkswagen, I was driving and he was playing the guitar, and we were singing and we would get to the college and do more music. It really gave us back to each other, we got to know each other again in a way that was really important."

On the letter Ingrid received a week after Jim's death:
"It comes at a time after a lot of tragedy in both of our lives, and we were really hoping that somehow we'd be able to pull this off and bring it together. he wrote to me:"

Dear Ing,

I know I haven't been very nice to you for some time, but I thought it might be of some comfort, Sweet Thing, to understand that you haven't been the only recipient of JC's manipulations. But since you can't hear me and can't see me, I can't bullshit, using my sneaky logic and facial movements. I have to write it all down instead, which is lots more permanent. So it can be re-read instead of re-membered, so, it's really right on the line.

I know that you see me for who I am, or should I say, as who I are. 'Cause I've been lots of people. If Medusa had personalities or attitudes instead of snakes for her features, her name would have been Jim Croce. But that's unfair to you and it's also unhealthy for me. And I now want to be the oldest man around, a man with a face full of wrinkles and lots of wisdom.

So this is a birth note, Baby. And when I get back everything will be different. We're gonna have a life together, Ing, I promise. I'm gonna concentrate on my health. I'm gonna become a public hermit. I'm gonna get my Master's Degree. I'm gonna write short stories and movie scripts. Who knows, I might even get a tan.
Give a kiss to my little man and tell him Daddy loves him.

Remember, it's the first sixty years that count and I've got 30 to go.
I Love you,

Excerpt from the book:

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