This morning my iPod shuffle and the relative solitude of the drive to work provided me with the memory of a distinct moment of my youth. The song was "Time In a Bottle" by Jim Croce.
Jim Croce died in a plane crash in September, 1973. I was nine years old. I knew little at the time about popular music, and cared about it even less. I remember hearing of his death, and knew it was he who had recorded "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," a song played often on the radio, and which I had enjoyed. That was about it.
About seven years later I was discovering the vinyl record albums my brother, nearly six years older than I, had been collecting and storing in the upstairs bedroom we shared. His stuff was generally off-limits to me, so, while he wasn't home, I made sure to be extra careful when handling his record albums.
The distinct moment to which my iPod brought me this morning was when I laid the needle on the first track of one of the two Jim Croce albums in my brother's collection. I lay on the floor with his headphones on so I could play it as loudly as I wanted. Even then I knew only that Jim Croce had recorded a couple of hit songs, plus one or two other popular pieces, and had died tragically while his star was still rising. With his songs piping directly into my ears, I was struck by the poetry in his words, by the emotion in his voice, and the weight of his music. And there, on my back on the hard floor of my shared bedroom nearly a decade after Jim Croce died, the full depth of the loss the music world experienced on the day of his death hit me. And I wept.