Saturday, July 21, 2012

95 Songs of Summer, #32 - "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" (1973)

The late Jim Croce was probably one of the least pretentious stars in the history of pop music.  He was just a regular guy who liked to play the guitar, smoke cigars, and write songs about other regular Joes, some of whom were probably based on real-life characters that he'd come across during the course of his career.  Robert Christgau wrote of his posthumous Greatest Hits set:

"His short-haul trucker persona (world-weary machismo with a heart of gold and a soul of beaten copper) and detached lowlife portraiture (he doesn't mess around that much with Jim himself) were a relief from post-hippie confessionalism, and his music was sweet and tough, never an easy combo to bring off."

Croce was a minor star during his life, but in a bitter twist of irony, really hit it big after his death in a plane crash in the fall of 1973.  At one time in early 1974, all three of his albums were in the Top 5, and that spring he enjoyed a string of hit singles whose success could have made the likes of Elton John envious.  Whether he could have continued that level of success had he lived is doubtful, but he recorded enough outstanding songs during his short life that it seems likely he'd still be on the road today, making fans happy with his populist and heartfelt catalogue.

This song, probably one of his best (and certainly one of his best-remembered), hit the top of the charts during the summer of 1973.

Jim Croce, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," from the summer of 1973.

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