Jim Croce Still Inspires Singers Everywhere 50 Years After His Tragic Death

Jim Croce IN CONCERT - Shoot Date: August 17, 1973
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It has been 50 years since the world lost singer-songwriter Jim Croce far too young. His career was going full steam ahead as he performed over 300 concerts just a year before his death. Many of his songs, including “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” were hitting the charts. In the ’60s, he began his career and participated in the folk music revival of the time and was one of the best storytelling musicians of his time. Croce also performed with his wife, Ingrid as a duo at times and the pair made an album together.

By September of 1973, his career was soaring to new heights. He was touring, and working on his next album called I Got a Name, which was released posthumously on Dec. 1, 1973. On Sept. 20, 1973, Croce had just played a small show at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, making up for a show that had previously been canceled due to a sore throat. After the show, his chartered plane crashed and killed several people including Croce, his performing partner Maury Muehleisen, comedian George Stevens, manager Kenneth Cortese, and tour manager Dennis Rast. Croce was just 30 years old.


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Despite dying during a budding career, Croce continues to inspire musicians even today. Just a year after his death, The Righteous Brothers referenced him in a song called “Rock and Roll Heaven” while Queen released a song called “Bring Back That Leroy Brown.” Croce’s songs continue to be covered by artists such as Glen Campbell, Garth Brooks, and his son A.J. Croce continues his legacy as a singer-songwriter.

Sadly, Croce is not the first musician to die far too soon in a plane crash. Let’s go over some stars that were gone before reaching their full potential as artists.

Glenn Miller (1944)

circa 1940: The American trombonist and band-leader, Glenn Miller (1904 - 1944), who disappeared when a small aircraft he was a passenger in went missing over the English Channel.

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The swing-era bandleader Glenn Miller was presumed dead in a mysterious plane crash. The plane took off from the London area going to Paris but never arrived. There are theories about what happened but nothing has really been confirmed.

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper (1959)

circa 1955: Rock-n-roll star Buddy Holly (1936 - 1959) snapping his fingers

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This crash is long considered the day the music died in the Don McLean song “American Pie.” The plane crashed during bad weather and killed everyone on board including the 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson, 22-year-old Buddy Holly, 17-year-old Richie Valens, and 28-year-old J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper).

Patsy Cline (1963)

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1960: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of Patsy CLINE (1932-1963) posed circa 1960

GAB Archive/Redferns

30-year-old country singer Patsy Cline and several others passed away in a crash in 1963 on the way to Nashville from Kansas City. The crash was blamed on bad weather and pilot error as well.

Jim Reeves (1964)

circa 1963: American country singer Jim Reeves (1923 - 1964).

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40-year-old country singer Jim Reeves died in a plane crash where he was flying his own airplane.

Otis Redding (1967)

MONTEREY POP, Otis Redding (center), with Booker T. and the MG's and the Mar-Keys, 1968

Janus/Everett Collection

Just a few years later, soul singer Otis Redding died at the age of 26 in a crash. Out of seven passengers, only one survived, 20-year-old musician Ben Cauley.

Members of Lynyrd Skynyrd (1977)

CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 1976: Southern Rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd (L-R back row Artimus Pyle, Gary Rossington, Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins and Steve Gaines, front row Leon Wilkeson and Billy Powell) pose by their trailer backstage at an outdoor concert in October, 1976 in California

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The accidental crash was due to the airplane running out of fuel. In the crash, three Lynyrd Skynyrd band members died including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant (29), guitarist Steve Gaines (28), and backup singer Cassie Gaines (29). The accident led to the re-release of the album Street Survivors which had been released just three days before the crash. The original album cover showed the band surrounded by flames, which was deemed inappropriate after the crash.

Randy Rhoads (1982)

American guitarist Randy Rhoads recording Ozzy Osbourne's 'Blizzard of Ozz' album at Ridge Farm Studio, 1980

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Randy Rhoads, guitarist for rocker Ozzy Osbourne died in a crash when he was just 25 years old. The airplane had belonged to country singer Jerry Calhoun and crashed into his home.

Ricky Nelson (1985)

RIO BRAVO, Ricky Nelson, 1959

Everett Collection

45-year-old Ricky Nelson, son of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, died in a nasty crash while attempting an emergency landing due to an interior fire. The cause of the fire was a defective heater which killed seven.

Stevie Ray Vaughan (1990)

Blues Guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn

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35-year-old Stevie Ray Vaughan was a guitarist for David Bowie and played with his own band Double Trouble. He died in a helicopter crash. Singer Eric Clapton was originally supposed to be in the helicopter.

John Denver (1997)

John Denver on SOLID GOLD, circa 1983

Ron Wolfson/Everett Collection

Singer-songwriter John Denver passed away while flying his own plane. Investigators believe that he probably tried to switch fuel tanks in flight and accidentally hit the rudder pedal.

Aaliyah (2001)

ROMEO MUST DIE, Aaliyah, 2000

Everett Collection

22-year-old singer, actress, and dancer was just starting her career when it was cut short. She had already released three best-selling albums and was infamously married to R. Kelly. The plane crashed due to several factors, one being the pilot had drugs and alcohol in his system.

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