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Jim Croce

The untimely plane-crash death has been a recurring tragic theme in rock 'n' roll ever since Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper lost their lives, but few losses have been more poignant than that of singer/songwriter Jim Croce, who was killed just as his career was taking off.

Philadelphia-born Croce first took up music while in college, and for much of his career supported himself and his family with day jobs ranging from teacher to construction worker -- a fact many credit for the warm, down-to-earth quality of his music. His first album, Jim and Ingrid, recorded with his wife, went nowhere, but he eventually was noticed and signed to ABC's Dunhill label. His first album with them, Life and Times, came out in 1973; it launched several hit singles, including "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)" and his breakthrough hit, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown." But while touring in support of the album that same year, he and several others perished in a plane crash in Louisiana.

Ironically, Croce has become a much bigger star after his death, with numerous compilations, outtakes and greatest-hits collections continuing to appear and sell well ever since, accompanied by much critical wistfulness about what might have been.

Written by: Mary Eisenhart

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