- Written by Randal C. Hill Randal C. Hill
One night, Ingrid Croce sat her husband down at the kitchen table on their Pennsylvania farm. For five years, the two had tried in vain to have a child. That night, though, Ingrid had good news: They were about to become parents.
Jim Croce was so overcome with emotion that he composed “Time in a Bottle” on the table that night, telling how he wished that fleeting moment of euphoria could last forever:
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
Of course, as we all know, life doesn’t work that way, and we are given only a certain number of days together:
But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go
through time with
Their blessed event was a boy. The happy couple named him Adrian.
Jim Croce was a struggling singer/songwriter who first performed with his wife. In 1966, the two recorded an album — Facets — and released it on their own Croce Records label. The disc went nowhere.
Three years later, they signed with Capitol Records, but their Jim and Ingrid Croce LP met the same fate, and Capitol dropped them.
Croce decided to try his luck as a solo artist, in the meantime driving trucks, working construction, and teaching middle school to make ends meet while waiting to make music his full-time occupation.
“Time in a Bottle” ended up on Croce’s first successful album, You Don’t Mess Around with Jim. The title track on ABC Records had been a rollicking Top 10 novelty hit, but “Time in a Bottle” ended up being buried on the second side of the LP. Nobody at ABC Records ever thought of it becoming a 45 someday.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and Croce had become a musical superstar. In September 1973, he and his small backup band were headlining shows at various college campuses in the South. All were scheduled to fly from a venue in Louisiana to another in Texas, but their small chartered plane struck a tree on takeoff from a regional airport, and everyone on board perished.
Adrian Croce had turned 2 years old just eight days earlier.
Coincidentally, one week before the crash, ABC-TV had aired a now-forgotten Movie of the Week. It was called She Lives! and starred Desi Arnaz Jr. in a story of a young woman stricken with cancer.
The film’s producers had come across “Time in a Bottle” from Croce’s first hit album and had secured permission to add it to the movie’s soundtrack.
The following day, radio stations were bombarded with callers asking to hear the heartbreaking tune again. ABC Records quickly issued “Time in a Bottle,” which raced to the peak of the Billboard chart and became Croce’s signature single.
Randal C. Hill is a rock ’n’ roll historian who lives at the Oregon coast. He may be reached at email@example.com.