ime in a Bottle" was one of 12 tracks on Jim Croce's first album, You Don't Mess Around With Jim, released in 1972. Atypical of the other songs on the LP, it had an almost British feel to it, thanks to the lead acoustic guitar of Maury Muehleisen. Because it was so different from the other cuts, it was never considered for release as a single. The album did yield two hits in 1972, the title track (number eight in September) and "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)" (number 17 in December). Croce's next single, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," was taken from his second LP, Life and Times. When it went to number one in July 1973, no one had any intention of returning to the first album to mine more singles.
The night the movie was telecast, Croce completed his third album, I Got a Name. Eight days later he gave a concert at Northwestern Louisiana University. A privately charted plane was waiting at the municipal airport at Natchitoches to take him to his next engagement, at another college 70 miles away. After an abortive take-off, the plane crashed into a tree. Jim Croce and five other people, including guitarist Maury Muehleisen, were killed.
Jim Croce was just 30 years old when he died. After years of struggling, he had experienced a year of intoxicating success. His music appealed to the head and the heart, and once, during a concert, he analyzed his appeal, "I'm a kind of music psychologist, or a musical bouncer, or a live juke box. It depends on the audience."
After his death, "I Got a Name" was released as a single. It was used as a theme in the motion picture The Last American Hero. The week it peaked at number 10, "Time in a Bottle," a single at last, entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 79. Six weeks later it was Croce's second number one single and the third posthumous number one of the rock era.
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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