“If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do, is to save every day until e-ter-ni-ty passes away…” A few months ago I had been up late searching for blog titles, and in the middle of the night this song popped into my head. I had no idea why, or what I was even going to write about. And then something interesting happened.
On July 23rd I was invited to a backstage concert at the Paramount Theater. It was just one of a series of concerts by Sammy Boyd Productions. “Backstage” meaning both the artist and the audience share the stage, while the artist performs with his back to the vast empty theater and faces an intimate group of about 150 people.
The artist performing on this particular evening was A.J. Croce, son of the late Jim Croce, and as most of you know, the artist who wrote and recorded ‘Time in a Bottle.’ As a Croce fan, I was delighted to be there. I remember how my heart sank that fateful day when I heard on the radio he had died in a plane crash. Jim Croce was only 30 years old and left behind his young wife and a toddler son, Adrian James, just 2 years old. As an American folksinger, songwriter and performer he had many hits in his brief three years as an emerging artist, with songs like; ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,’ ‘Operator,’ ‘You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,’ and ‘I’ll have to say I love you in a song,’ just to name a few. He was only beginning to reach the apex of his career when it was cut short by his untimely death. The good news is, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. The little boy who lost his rising star father before he could even throw him a baseball or teach him how to play the guitar is equally as talented, perhaps more. With his first concert tour at the age of eighteen, A.J. Croce has been performing for over two decades. His eclectic musical style and song writing talent was palpable, playing in a variety of genres; his personality as unique and entertaining as his music. Although, life wasn’t always easy for this child prodigy, A.J. had some challenges growing up. Provisionally blind by a brain tumor at the age of four, he taught himself how to play the piano from the musical inspiration of Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. Which tells you just how gifted he really is. Fortunately, by the age of ten, his sight returned.
Practically a one man show, with only a drummer by his side, he bounced back and forth between the piano (which he declared his favorite) and the guitar. A.J.’s most recent release is an album titled “Twelve Tales.” A collection of 12 songs which were released one by one over a period of 12 months with six producers, and many stories, behind each one. Twelve Tales is a creative collaboration of various musical styles with songs like: ‘Easy Money,’ ‘Call of Love,‘ ‘Keep the Change,’ and ‘Momentary Lapse of Judgement,’ just to name a few. There were no Jim Croce songs that night, just the subtle hint of ‘Time in a Bottle,’ with different words but the same cords, which he sang in a voice that sounded so familiar. When the evening was over I walked away with the same adulation for him as I had for his father, crafted completely in his own right.
‘I’ve Got a Name’ was the last song his father recorded, in September of 1973, the month Croce died. It was released in December of that same year and became a hit overnight. The song was written, (not by Croce) for the movie, The last American Hero. It’s kind of ironic that this song is about mortality and carrying on his father’s name. Because now, that is exactly what A.J. Croce is doing. “If I had a box just for wishes, and dreams that had never come true…” I think about the life of this young man, Jim Croce, who had so many dreams for the future, not for fame, but for a happy life with his family; dreams that were cut short – and it makes me realize how precious life is. We never know what’s waiting for us around the bend, and when what we have will be gone. “The box would be empty, except for the memory of how they were answered by you.”
Yes, it makes me think about my own life. “If I could make days last forever, if words could make wishes come true…” I would go back to those days when my children were little, and “I’d save everyday like a treasure and then, again I would spend them with you.” One memory in particular is the day trips we used to take to the beach. We would drive down from Edison over the Raritan Bridge, music blaring, listening to our favorite summer songs. My boys would spend the entire day in the water on their boogie boards. Around 3:30 we’d get ready to leave, they’d do a quick shower off, then suit-up in the car on the way home. We’d head straight to the Pop Warner football field, and we would always make it just in time! If I could save time in a bottle, the second thing that I’d like to do, is to save this moment in time here in Asbury Park. We are so fortunate to have all that we do here; the beach, the boardwalk, the downtown, the music, the culture, the food, the amazing sunsets; “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 one I want to go through time with.”
If you could save time in a bottle, when would it be? I’d like know. Share your story and your pictures, or even just your pictures. Please include a small description about the photo; who, what, where, and when. Eventually, I hope to create an interactive blog where the readers write too.