Main Line Today (October, 2019)
Sitting on my bedroom dresser is an old 45 vinyl record from 1973, perched up on a picture frame pedestal. Its 1.5” center hole has been replaced by a clock, with big and little hands stretching out across the grooved vinyl. All caps lettering announces the music magically hidden within those grooves: “TIME IN A BOTTLE.” And below that, its songwriter: JIM CROCE.
Croce would die the same year that vinyl was released, making the words he sang on it hauntingly poignant. If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do, is to save every day ‘til eternity passes away, just to spend them with you.
He wrote the song, which would become a number one hit single after his sudden death at the age of 30, while living in a rented farmhouse overlooking the Brandywine River in the small village of Lyndell. He and his wife Ingrid lived there from 1970-72, a period of time in their lives filled with creative musical output, hootenannies and entertaining houseguests by the likes of James Taylor and Arlo Guthrie.
Though the tragic plane crash that took his life occurred two years before I was even born, I’ve always felt a strong connection to Croce and his music. It’s not because we both lived in Drexel Hill. Or both went to Villanova University. Or played guitar (albeit rather poorly in my case). Or moved to Chester County in our mid-20s. Rather, it’s because his music – and the stories his songs tell – touch something deep within me. As they do with countless others.
Which is why, nearly five decades after his death, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission recently announced it will be formally recognizing Croce’s legacy. One of those blue historical markers, those iconic signs announcing birthplaces and battlefields alike, will soon be placed near the Lyndell farmhouse where Croce penned so many of his hit songs.
“Operator.” “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. “Photographs and Memories.” “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” (which is introducing Croce to an entire new generation thanks to Chief Jim Hopper and the Netflix sensation that is Stranger Things).
All hit songs. All poured forth from that Chester County farmhouse.
Croce had 30 years here on earth. Passing by that farmhouse today, the words he once sang there echo through time, a reminder to us to cherish the moment, for time is a gift:
But there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.
No matter what the yellow lettering on that historical marker may end up saying to describe Croce and his legacy, it is his music that will live on as his true historical marker, ‘til eternity passes away.