Getty | Getty Here at Spinner we've got an informal agreement with the cosmos…
Jim Croce's Widow Reveals Their 'Love at First Sight,' His Struggles With Money, Fidelity and Her Sexual Assault
- Posted on Jul 31st 2012 2:00PM by David Chiu
GAB Archive, Redferns
Though his songs projected an easygoing persona, Croce's success hid his professional and personal struggles, as told in a recently-published book about the singer, I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story, written by his widow Ingrid Croce.
"The contracts that we signed back then were onerous," she tells Spinner. "We made $200 a week until Jim died. He was out there performing, he was on TV and radio and his albums were selling, but he died penniless. It was a very big conflict for him -- he graduated from college, his parents were bugging him, 'You got a college degree. What are you doing with it?' He hated disappointing anyone, he couldn't say no. So he was really caught in the middle of wanting to do what he knew he had to do, which was to write songs and make music, but he had a family to raise. Our son [A.J.] had been born and it was really financially difficult to make it work."
"It was really love at first sight," she says. "Next month we met again at the actual contest and we won one of the categories, and he asked me when we could sing together. It was one of those things where music truly brought us together." She also says from the moment she met him that he was a star. "I loved his music. His sound and his voice were unforgettable."
But it wasn't a fairytale relationship, as Ingrid describes in the book. She talks of being sexually assaulted by another man in Mexico, an incident for which Jim reproached. "When you hear 'One Less Set of Footsteps,' 'Lover's Cross,' 'It Doesn't Have to Be That Way' or 'I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song,' you can hear the conflict that Jim was dealing with. Back then we didn't have rape crisis or counseling, and he wouldn't have gone. I felt it was my fault, it must've been my fault. And he felt this enormous amount of anger. I was a virgin when I met Jim. I was 16 years old, and he was the only person that I'd ever been with. So for Jim, it was a difficult thing for me to have been raped."
Jim continued to work on his music, but his later mainstream success brought problems for the marriage, with him being constantly on the road and having relationships with groupies. At one point, Ingrid threatened to leave him. She now says that when she got pregnant for the second time with their son Max -- whom she later lost in childbirth -- it turned Jim around.
"I know that's not who Jim was. He was a kind and loving human being. He was a person who put other people first and he had turned into somebody who wasn't doing that. So I think like anybody who deals with substance abuse, lack of rest and fame. You get that quotient together and it's disastrous, so he was a human being like all of us. I'm so proud of him in the end when he was pulling his life together and doing the right thing."
But on Sept. 20, 1973, Jim and his guitarist Maury Muehleisen were among those who died in a plane crash following Jim's performance at Northwestern University in Natchitoches, La. Ingrid received an early morning phone call from her mother back home in San Diego and heard the news. "His plan was to come home. This was his last [and] final tour," Ingrid says. "It was one of those things that I had this feeling that he wasn't going to make it past a certain age. I don't know why, and it could have been the feeling of loss because I lost so many people in my life. But when it happened, I had this nightmare ... I needed him and he wasn't there."
Since the tragedy, Ingrid has kept Jim's name alive with the restaurant and jazz bar Croce's in San Diego, and their only child, A.J., is also a singer-songwriter. Asked about why Jim's music continues to be popular after all these years, Ingrid responds, "Because it was real, because it came from his heart and soul, and I think because everyone of us who feels emotion feels that song. People are pretty intuitive when they hear a song and it touches them. They may not understand exactly what was going on in Jim's mind, but it touches them so deeply, it resonates for them. They will pick that up, so I think that's why that music is still there."
It's appropriate that the book is called I Got a Name, as it is also the title of an uplifting hit song recorded by Jim. "When Jim died, I was stunned," Ingrid says. "It was hard to cry, and I went back to my friend's house, Judy Coffin, who was Maury's girlfriend, and we turned on the songs from [the album] I Got a Name that we had been sent. I listened to that song and I could not stop crying. It was so intimate and so personal because it was the only time that Jim sang without a guitar. I could feel his vulnerability, there was a sense that he could actually touch out and feel people. It's probably for me a song that will bring tears to my eyes, even today. I can barely get through that song -- that's one of the most emotional songs for me."