Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Mariah Carey gave viewers across the nation a…
- Posted on Apr 3rd 2009 3:00PM by James Sullivan
But Croce's sudden success, several years in the making, introduced a voice that still marks the sound of the early 1970s. His first Top 10 hit, 'You Don't Mess Around with Jim,' was about a pool hustler, not the singer himself. Croce was never so presumptuous: When he couldn't get his singing career off the ground, he'd moved with his wife, Ingrid, out to the Pennsylvania countryside, taking odd jobs and selling all his guitars but one.
By early 1973, however, things were looking up. He'd made the Top 40 three times before hitting the No. 1 spot with his second album's second single, 'Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.' When ABC used a song from his first album, 'Time in a Bottle,' in a made-for-TV movie, it too began to march up the charts. Suddenly everything Croce and his close companion, guitarist Maury Muehleisen, touched was turning to gold. On the road with Loggins & Messina, Muehleisen and Kenny Loggins wrote a song together, 'Fever Dream,' while doing their laundry at a Holiday Inn. It was about a man who envisions his own death.
A few weeks later, with Croce's new single, 'I Got a Name,' about to hit radio stations across the country, he and Muehleisen performed in Natchitoches, La. After the show, they headed to a local airstrip, where they would be flown to their next gig, in Texas. The pilot, who was running late, reportedly ran three miles to the airport and jumped in the plane. On takeoff, the plane failed to clear the lone pecan tree in the area. It hit the tree and crashed, instantly killing Croce, Muehleisen, the pilot and three other passengers. Investigators theorized that the pilot, who had a history of heart problems, had suffered a heart attack in the cockpit.
'I Got a Name' hit the Top Ten a few weeks after the singer's death, followed closely by the rediscovered 'Time in a Bottle' -- with its prophetic line 'But there never seems to be enough time/To do the things you wanna do" -- which eventually reached No. 1. That song was reportedly written for Croce's son, AJ, now a singer himself, who was not quite two years old at the time of his father's death.