The story is a sad and all too familiar one. A musician toils for years in obscurity, facing the opposition of his family, frustrations with the corruption of the music industry, before achieving breakthrough mainstream success. At that moment of initial popularity, though, the musician is in a fatal plane crash and his most popular album, instead of being a breakthrough that signifies the potential of years of success to come, becomes a bittersweet and melancholy sense of loss at the excellence that was missed. A widow was left to keep the memory of her late husband alive, which she did admirably through her writing and business efforts, and a son was left without a father. In judging the musical excellence of Jim Croce, we must realize that while some artists have a definite arc to their career that includes a lengthy and excellent body of work that allows induction as a lifetime achievement award of sorts, other artists and bands, often through no fault of their own, had only a short time to write, release, and perform music and for which to be judged for influence. Fortunately for us, Jim Croce was an exemplary artist who had three essential albums in helping develop the template and wide range for singer-songwriter music in the early 1970’s. On his extant body of work and its influence, Jim Croce is a worthy inductee in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, even without taking into account his tragic and untimely death due to pilot error. It is to that body of work we will now turn.
The Influence Of Jim Croce
The influence of Jim Croce exists in several different ways. Some of them are larger concerns, including his difficulties with the corruption of the music industry and the thorny problem of how to get paid as a musician  with a major-label contract and some gold albums to one’s name. In an indirect fashion, the death of Jim Croce came about in part because he had to tour on the cheap, with predictable results in the quality of the transportation. Other concerns are ones about the range of music, where Jim Croce’s music combines an observational slice-of-life approach in such songs as “Workin’ At The Car Wash Blues” and “Big Bad Leroy Brown,” to songs about personal identity like “I Got A Name” to deeply heartfelt love songs like “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels),” “Time In A Bottle,” and “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song.” Besides the various ranges of genres and the emotional depth of his music, the songs themselves remain culturally important. To cite but two examples, “I Got A Name” was played prominently in the recent film Django Unchained, and “Time In A Bottle” received the same treatment in X Men: Days Of Future Past . A musician whose music can help inspire film work decades later is surely worthy of recognition, making it little wonder that Croce has been in the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame since 1990. A compelling life story, a phenomenal (if abbreviated) body of work, and massive and enduring cultural influence make Jim Croce a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Why Jim Croce Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Despite the fact that at least six of his songs are on regular rotation in classic rock formats (to say nothing of easy listening format): “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim,” “I Got A Name,” “Time In A Bottle,” “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels),” “Big Bad Leroy Brown,” and “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song,” and the fact that his last three studio albums hit gold , and the fact that he had two number one hits (one posthumous), three additional top ten hits, and another three top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, somehow Jim Croce has flown under the radar as far as being enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Despite his dissatisfaction with the music business, it is likely he would have been able to record at least at the pace of an artist like Gerry Rafferty . While it is lamentable that we are lacking several more great albums from Jim Croce, the ones we have were good enough to merit a lasting place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Verdict: Put him in already. His case for induction is similar in terms of musical quality and enduring songs to that of the recently inducted Cat Stevens , so hopefully he doesn’t have much longer before his own induction.
 See, for example:
Power Pop Tragedies