More a memoir than a biography, “I Got A Name” The Jim Croce Story was authored by Jim’s widow, Ingrid Croce, and I absolutely loved it. Admittedly, I made the mistake of reading a few reviews of the book before writing my own summation, and I found some of them interesting at best, but although they did not sway my own opinion of the book, yet, they are worth addressing.
First, in a general consensus of reviews I read, the resounding opinion is that this book is biased, because it was weighed heavily from Ingrid’s perspective. To this I say of course it is. I suppose it might have been more aptly titled “I Got A Name” My Life With Jim Croce, because that is what it was, and I didn’t really expect otherwise. I’ve read enough memoirs by former wives to know this is par the course, and to expect an unbiased perspective, you’d better not turn to spouses. For that matter, the author of any book will inevitably write in their own voice and from their own perspective.
Secondly, some reviews whined that she painted an “unfair” picture of Jim Croce. Well, in the classic words of Colonel Jessup played by Jack Nicholson from the movie A Few Good Men… “You can’t handle the truth”. Jim Croce was a music superstar, and as history has proven time and time again, stars of the music world are often far from angelic. No, Jim wasn’t always the happy fuzzy Jim we would all like to believe he was, but an immensely talented individual haunted by all too familiar demons that populate that path. Additionally he was a human being, and not an immortal and untouchable icon.
And that’s the charm of this book.
I don’t love Jim Croce any less than I did before finding out he was mortal and flawed, it only helped me to understand him more. I also understand what kind of a woman Ingrid Croce was, and I enjoyed getting to know her as well. This book isn’t about Jim Croce the Superstar, it’s about a man who was a husband, a father, and who struggled desperately to express himself, which – outside of his music – was apparently challenging, making the songs he wrote that much more sincere and endearing.
As for the book, it’s great, and more importantly, it’s necessary. It’s been over 40 years since the tragic death of this beloved singer/songwriter, and if there are to be future biographies, Ingrid Croce’s memoir will serve as an invaluable resource. From their cute and romantic first meeting, all through their courtship and marriage and finally Jim’s end, there are facts and memories in this bio that opened my eyes to Croce and the music world he lived in.
I don’t believe – had Jim lived – that he and Ingrid would have stayed together. She was a communicator, and he was not, and that makes for a troubled marriage. But them again, I’m no marriage counselor. Ingrid may have actually loved Jim to a fault, but in his life she stuck by his side and put up with some unnecessary behaviors, but she loved him just the same. I also believe he loved her as well in his own tortured artist kind of way, which takes a very special person to tolerate as Ingrid tried so desperately to do.
The real eye-opener was Jim’s reluctance to stand up to his record label and management, and their blatant mistreatment of Jim and the strain that put upon him. Ingrid touches on that in the epilogue, alluding to concluded legal battles. I hope for the Croce family’s sake she cleaned them out because they were truly less than human. They deserve nothing (if not very little) from Jim’s creativity after raking him over the coals for years paying him pennies on the dollar. You get em’ Ingrid.
As for my own thoughts on Jim, I’ll borrow a verse from Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind”, as song is the language Jim understood best.
It seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did
Heck, I’m really no book reviewer, just a lover of music (and books), and like the Elton John lyric says, I was just a kid, and my childhood was populated with characters like Bad, Bad Leroy Brown and a guy named Jim who you’d ought not mess around with, and these characters of my pre-adolescence are as beloved to me as Baloo the Bear, Indiana Jones or Godzilla. It was the 70s, and Jim’s characters and songs were part of the cultural fabric and remain so even today.
Thank you Ingrid for this book, and thank you Jim for writing some of my favorite songs. And if you love the music of Jim Croce, and you want to learn more, this is not only a great book to pick up.