Do you know? Did you ever?

Time to sharpen your pencils and test your memory banks about classic rock music!

Some of you who struggle to recall the words to even your most favorite songs may be relieved to hear this is NOT a lyrics quiz. It’s a rock trivia quiz, where I ask you 10 multiple-choice questions about bands, solo artists, singles, albums and other information from the classic rock of a half-century ago. Even if you weren’t around back then, or weren’t all that into the details of the music you listened to, the music has lived on, and I find it entertaining to see what we know about those days.

Study the choices for each question, mark your best guess on a piece of paper, then scroll down to find out the right answer and learn more about the subject under consideration.

Good luck!

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1 Which of these four rock groups does NOT have a Canadian member?

The Band

Buffalo Springfield

The Mamas and the Papas

The Doobie Brothers

2 Which of these four Beatles hits was not written by Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, or Starr?

Who was the first of these female artists to have a #1 single in the U.S.?

“I Feel Fine”

“Twist and Shout”

“Love Me Do”

“Yellow Submarine”

3 These four artists all had big hit singles in the 1970s. Three of them also scored a second Top 40 hit, but one artist failed to make a return appearance and therefore became a “One-Hit Wonder.” Which one?

Norman Greenbaum

Redbone

Five Man Electrical Band

Maria Muldaur

4 Which of these is Meat Loaf’s real name?

Vincent Furnier

Marvin Aday

Reginald Dwight

Melvin Houser

5 Which of these early Elton John singles failed to reach the Top 40 upon initial release?

“Daniel”

“Tiny Dancer”

“Honky Cat”

“Levon”

6 Which hit single was written by the composer when he was only 12 years old?

“My Generation” by Pete Townshend of The Who

“Lucky Man” by Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer

“Proud Mary” by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival

“You Really Got Me” by Ray Davies of The Kinks

7 Of these four hugely popular double albums, which is the only one to reach #1 on the U.S. charts?

“Tommy,” The Who (1969)

“Tusk,” Fleetwood Mac (1979)

“Exile on Main Street,” The Rolling Stones (1972)

“Eat a Peach,” The Allman Brothers Band (1972)

8 Only one of these lead singers was an original member of the band that made them famous. Which one?

Steve Perry of Journey

Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues

Jon Anderson of Yes

Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane

9 Which artist did NOT die of a gunshot wound?

Marvin Gaye

Terry Kath

Sam Cooke

Keith Moon

10 Which band’s album cover includes a reference to a different rock band?

“Axis Bold as Love,” Jimi Hendrix Experience

“Physical Graffiti,” Led Zeppelin

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” The Beatles

“Stand Up,” Jethro Tull

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1 The Doobie Brothers

The Doobies were a bar band formed in San Jose, California. Their two guitarists (Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons) and bassist Tiran Porter were from the West Coast, and their two drummers (John Hartman and Michael Hossack) were from Virginia and New Jersey. Even the later members to join the group (Jeff Baxter, Keith Knudsen, Michael McDonald, John McFee) were all from the U.S.

The Mamas and Papas came to symbolize the California sound, and while Michele Phillips came from Long Beach, Cass Elliot was actually from Maryland and John Phillips from South Carolina. Denny Doherty, however, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and sang in bands there until moving to Hollywood at age 23.

Buffalo Springfield had three Canadians on their roster: Neil Young from Toronto, Bruce Palmer from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and Dewey Martin from Chesterville, Ontario. (Stephen Stills and Richie Furay were from Texas and Ohio, respectively.)

The Band was 80% Canadian: Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Rick Danko all hailed from various cities in Ontario, while drummer Levon Helm was the lone American, born in Arkansas.

2 “Twist and Shout”

This iconic rocker was co-written in 1961 by Phil Medley and Bert Berns, who also wrote other hits like “Hang On Sloopy,” “Piece of My Heart” and “A Million to One.” It was first recorded that year by a vocal group called The Top Notes as “a Latin-tinged raveup,” as one critic put it, but it failed to chart. The Isley Brothers’ recording in 1962 offered a better R&B groove and added the ascending vocal parts that made it so memorable, helping it reach #17 on the U.S. pop charts (and #2 on the R&B charts). The Beatles used almost the same arrangement as The Isley Brothers’ version when they recorded “Twist and Shout” in 1963 for their debut LP, “Please Please Me.” It was not released as a single in the UK, but in the US, the single reached #2 in early 1964, held from the top spot by another Beatles song, “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

“I Feel Fine” was written mostly by Lennon with help from McCartney.

“Love Me Do” was one of the earliest Lennon-McCartney songs, and the first ever to chart in the UK.

“Yellow Submarine” was another Lennon-McCartney collaboration, written as a children’s song for Ringo Starr to sing on the “Revolver” album.

3 Norman Greenbaum

Upon hearing country artist Porter Wagoner sing a gospel song on TV, Greenbaum thought to himself, “I can do that,” and within 15 minutes, he’d written the lyrics and basic chords to “Spirit in the Sky.” Greenbaum had been in an unsuccessful psychedelic jug band in the late ’60s but somehow won a solo contract, and when he recorded songs in a San Francisco studio, he employed friends who were in other bands. When the record became an unexpected international #1 hit, Greenbaum had no band available to go on tour, and subsequent attempts at follow-up singles fell short. So he reverted to his previous calling as a pig farmer.

Redbone was a California-based band comprised of musicians of Native-American and Mexican heritage. I always loved their #5 hit from 1974, “Come and Get Your Love,” but I hadn’t realized they were the group that already had a minor hit with “The Witch Queen of New Orleans,” which peaked at #21 in early 1972.

Five Man Electrical Band was a Canadian pop rock group that scored eight hit singles in the Top 20 on the Canadian charts between 1965 and 1975. In the US, they had their breakthrough with “Signs,” which not only reached #3 here in the summer of 1971, it was also #1 in Australia for nearly two months. Later in 1971, the group did modestly well here with the spirited rocker “Absolutely Right,” which peaked at #28.

Maria Muldaur had a big hit with the sexually suggestive “Midnight at the Oasis,” which reached #6 in the spring of 1974. I wasn’t aware until recently that she had a second hit less than a year later when “I’m a Woman,” a gritty blues tune that sounds like something Bonnie Raitt might record, reached #12.

4 Marvin Aday

A Texas woman named Wilma Oday gave birth in 1947 to “nine pounds of ground chuck,” as Wilma’s husband Orvis described the infant’s reddish appearance. For most of his childhood, Marvin went by “M.L.” which stood for “Meat Loaf,” and the name stuck as he became a bruising football player, then an actor and singer of international fame, thanks to his delivery of the dramatic rock songs of Jim Steinman on the multi-platinum “Bat Out of Hell” in 1977 and its much-delayed follow-up, “Bat Out of Hell II” in 1993. Oday died in January 2022.

Vincent Furnier is the real name of shock rocker Alice Cooper.

Reginald Dwight is the real name of Elton John.

Melvin Houser, well, that’s just a name I made up. Apologies to any real Melvin Housers out there.

5 “Tiny Dancer”

Originally released as the leadoff track on Elton’s fourth studio LP, “Madman Across the Water,” this gorgeous song ran over six minutes, which hurt its chances as a Top 40 single. In fact, it stalled in the U.S. at #41 and wasn’t even released as a single in the UK, although it reached #19 in Canada and #13 in Australia. Over the years, the song slowly became one of John’s most popular songs on American rock radio stations, and got a big boost of popularity after having been prominently featured in the 2000 film “Almost Famous.”

Daniel,” released in 1973 as the second single from “Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player,” reached #2 that spring.

Honky Cat,” the second single released from his 1972 LP “Honky Chateau,” peaked at #8.

Levon,” the first single from “Madman Across the Water,” did modestly well, topping out at #24.

6 “Lucky Man” by Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Lake’s mother, a pianist, influenced his early musical leanings, and bought him a modest guitar when he turned 12. Once he’d mastered his first four chords (Am, Em, G and D), he wrote his first song, which he called “Lucky Man,” which he described as “sort of a medieval folk song” when played on acoustic guitar. The lyrics describe a privileged man who went off to battle and died, but for Lake, it referred to himself. “My mother bought me the guitar when she couldn’t really afford it, and I felt that I was a lucky boy, a lucky man indeed,” he recalled. It became ELP’s breakthrough hit in 1970.

My Generation” sounds like it could have been written by a defiant 12-year-old Pete Townshend, but he was actually 19 or 20.

Proud Mary” was written by John Fogerty shortly after he was discharged from the Army Reserve in 1968 when he was 23.

You Really Got Me” was the fourth or fifth song Ray Davies ever wrote, in the spring of 1964 at age 20.

7 “Exile on Main Street,” The Rolling Stones

Although the Stones were more of a singles band during their first eight years, every one of their albums released in the 1960s reached the Top Five on U.S. album charts. Beginning with “Sticky Fingers” in 1971, they put together a string of nine consecutive #1 LPs, some of which, in my opinion, didn’t deserve it, and 1972’s “Exile on Main Street” is one of them. It’s a double album with a lot of filler, the production is muddy and the performances substandard, but The Stones were on a roll throughout the ’70s as far as the U.S. record buyers were concerned.

Tommy” was certainly consistently strong enough to be a #1 album for The Who, but it peaked at #4.

Tusk” was a strange collection of songs, and a step down from the appeal of “Rumours,” but it still managed to reach #4 for Fleetwood Mac.

Eat a Peach,” which is half studio and half live, was the first released following the death of Duane Allman. It, too, topped out at #4.

8 Jon Anderson of Yes

Anderson and his school chum Chris Squire were the founding members of Yes in 1968. They recruited guitarist Peter Banks, drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Tony Kaye, and were off and running in the progressive rock sweepstakes fashionable in the UK at the time. Yes had a virtual revolving door of members come in and out over the years, but Anderson’s ethereal vocals are perhaps the defining element of the group’s sound.

Steve Perry didn’t join Journey as their lead vocalist until 1978, five years and three albums after they were founded by keyboardist Gregg Rolie and guitarist Neal Schon, formerly with Santana.

Justin Hayward joined The Moody Blues in 1967 when they recorded the landmark “Days of Future Passed,” but the band had been around since 1964.

Grace Slick brought Jefferson Airplane their biggest success with two 1967 singles, “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” but she was preceded as lead vocalist by Signe Anderson in 1965-1966.

9 Keith Moon

Moon was notorious for excessive and destructive behavior, which made him a phenomenal drummer but eventually a danger to himself. He drank and drugged too much, and when he tried to quit, he was prescribed a powerful sedative, on which he overdosed and died in 1978.

Marvin Gaye was shot to death by his father in 1984.

Terry Kath died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot in 1978.

Sam Cooke was shot and killed in an altercation with a motel manager in 1964.

10 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles

This 1967 album cover has been scrutinized and interpreted more than probably any other rock album in history. In addition to the 50-odd likenesses pictured behind the Fab Four, several props appear in front of and next to them, one of which is a doll propped up on a chair. The doll, a gift to Mick Jagger from the winner of a contest on Memphis radio station WMPS-AM in 1964, was brought to the photo session by photographer Robert Fraser, a friend of Jagger. If you look closely, the sweater the doll is wearing says, “THE WMPS GOOD GUYS WELCOME THE ROLLING STONES.”

Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” featured a tenement building with various faces peeking out, including those of Hollywood icons and the Zeppelin band members themselves, but no one from different rock bands. Jimi’s “Axis: Bold as Love” and Tull’s “Stand Up” included all sorts of nooks and crannies within the designs for them to hide words or images of other bands, and you can search all you want, but you won’t find any.

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I’m in pieces, bits and pieces

Some of classic rock’s tales aren’t quite long enough to warrant full treatment, but they’re still worthy of attention. So I’ve gathered up a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and I’ve thrown them into the pot for a mixed bag of short stories I hope you enjoy:

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A classic rock self-fulfilling prophecy

They were just a ragtag band of misfits, essentially a bar band from Jersey that, against all odds, made a dream come true.

They were called Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, named partly because of Ray Sawyer, one of their singers, who had lost an eye in a car accident and always wore an eye patch. They played a lively brand of country, rock and folk that was alternately funny and serious, and their improvisational performances were full of suggestive lyrics and partial nudity. They were making it up as they went along.

They ambushed Clive Davis in his Columbia Records office one day in 1971 and danced on his desk as they auditioned their songs for him, and they must’ve caught Davis in a vulnerable mood because they were just playful enough in their anarchic presentation to win a contract.

Their manager/producer helped cement a relationship between the band and poet/author/songwriter/playwright Shel Silverstein, who wrote the children’s book “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and also wrote “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash. Silverstein’s first effort for Dr. Hook was a bittersweet ditty called “Sylvia’s Mother,” which proved to be an unlikely hit in early 1972. He proceeded to write them a whole batch of whimsical, bawdy songs like “Freakin’ at the Freakers’ Ball,” “Get My Rocks Off” and “If I’d Only Come and Gone” for their second album, “Sloppy Seconds.”

That album also included a clever parody of the rock and roll lifestyle called “The Cover of Rolling Stone,” which claimed that, even if a band had all the groupies and pills and friends that money could buy, their biggest goal would be “the thrill that’ll getcha when you get your picture on the cover of the Rollin’ Stone.” It was released as a single in late 1972 and did decent business on the charts, but it wasn’t until Dr. Hook’s manager barnstormed the offices of Rolling Stone and sold editor Jann Wenner on the plan to make the song a reality that it reached #6 in the spring of 1973.

Truth be told, the magazine was only five years old at the time, and Wenner’s notoriously huge ego wanted the fame and cachet of being regarded as a savvy businessman. He saw how the song lyrics and title helped give his counterculture publication a jumpstart toward a more mainstream audience. He sent a veteran writer on tour with Dr. Hook for a couple weeks and came up with a cover story on the band (though, by all rights, they hadn’t achieved enough to really deserve it).

In the end, Dr. Hook never got their photo on the cover, but the March 28th, 1973, issue featured a caricature of the band and the words, “What’s-Their-Names Made the Cover.” As far as the band was concerned, they had indeed made it.

The coveted cover spawned by Dr. Hook’s song

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Let me stand next to your fire

In March of 1967, a still-unknown trio called The Jimi Hendrix Experience was set to perform at a London club on a bill that included Cat Stevens, The Walker Brothers and Englebert Humperdinck. While the band waited to perform, Hendrix and his manager Chas Chandler were discussing ways to increase the band’s media exposure. A local journalist named Keith Altham was also there, and he suggested they needed to do something more dramatic than The Who’s penchant for smashing their instruments. Altham thought for a moment, then said, “Well, it’s a pity you can’t set fire to your guitar.”

Chandler’s eyes lit up, and he asked the road manager to find some lighter fluid. The group gave a torrid 45-minute performance, which concluded with Hendrix lighting his Fender Stratocaster on fire. The stunt worked, giving Hendrix more attention than he bargained for, and he repeated it three months later at the Monterey Pop Festival in California with film cameras capturing it for posterity.

After the London show, press agent Tony Garland gathered the charred remains of the guitar and took them to his parents’ home and stored them in their garage, where they remained for nearly 40 years.

One day in 2006, Garland’s nephew was combing through boxes in that garage when he found the seared Strat and, knowing that his uncle had once worked for Hendrix, did a little research. Sure enough, he had a rock and roll heirloom on his hands, and it was auctioned off later that year for $575,000.

Jimi Hendrix’s first char-grilled guitar

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“Really Cheap Pine”

Much has been written about the songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney and how they wrote “nose to nose” in the early days but were composing songs virtually solo in The Beatles’ last two or three years. In 1965, for their groundbreaking masterpiece LP “Rubber Soul,” they were still merging ideas for melodies, lyrics and arrangements, and one of their finest efforts, “Norwegian Wood,” came from that period.

McCartney has published his recollections about the origins of songs from The Beatles’ catalog, and here’s what he had to say about this one: “John came in one morning, and he had this first stanza, which was brilliant: ‘I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.’ That was all he had, no title, no nothing, but we both could tell where this one was going to go based on that opening line. And it pretty much wrote itself. Once you’ve got the great idea, they do tend to write themselves, assuming you know how to write songs.

‘It’s him trying to get laid, it’s about an affair, but he wanted to be more cryptic about it because of Cynthia, you know. So I picked up the story at the second verse. John said in that Playboy interview he did just before he died that he hadn’t the faintest idea where the title came from. But I do. A friend of ours had just had his room done out in wood. A lot of people were decorating their places in wood. Norwegian wood. It was pine. Really cheap pine. But that’s not as good a title. “Isn’t it fine, Really Cheap Pine”…

Anyway, the girl decides she doesn’t want to do it, and she makes him sleep in the bath. In the last verse, I had this idea to set the Norwegian wood on fire as revenge, so we did it very tongue in cheek. She had led him on, then said, ‘You’d better sleep in the bath’. We thought the guy would want to have revenge of some kind. ‘I lit a fire’ could have meant to keep myself warm, and wasn’t the decor of her house wonderful? But it didn’t. It meant I burned the fucking place down as an act of revenge, and then we left it at that, and ended it there.”

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It’s not always about romance

Writing lyrics about one thing when you mean something else is a favorite ploy of rock songwriters. Two of the biggest hits Daryl Hall and John Oates ever charted offer two examples of this technique.

In 1981, they released “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” which appears to be about one half of a romantic couple telling the other half that there are some things they refuse to do: “You’ve got the body, now you want my soul, /Don’t even think about it, say ‘no go,’ /I’ll do anything that you want me to do, /Yeah, I’ll do almost anything that you want me to, /But I can’t go for that, no, no can do…”

Oates explained, “In reality, that song is about the music business. It’s about not wanting to be pushed around by record labels, managers and agents, and being told what to do, and wanting to stay true to yourself creatively. But we thought it would be a good move to universalize the topic of the song, making it into something everyone could relate to and ascribe personal meaning to in their own way. So we kept the words less specific, and it worked out well.”

The same sort of thing happened the following year as Hall was working on a song about New York City in the ’80s and how it could be a tough place that put people through the wringer. Said Oates, “But we started thinking that there are a ton of listeners who’ve never lived in New York or even been there, and maybe couldn’t relate to that. So we made it about not a city but a manipulative woman. People can identify with that kind of experience, I think. So it became ‘Maneater'”: “I wouldn’t if I were you, I know what she can do, /She’s deadly, man, and she could really rip your world apart, /Mind over matter, ooh, the beauty is there, but a beast is in the heart, /Oh-oh, here she comes, watch out boy, she’ll chew you up, /Oh-oh, here she comes, she’s a maneater…”

“The most heart-melting love song ever penned”

It seems a safe bet that there have been more songs written about love than any other topic, so it’s an almost impossible task to select the best ones, or to designate one as the finest of them all.

In 1966, Brian Wilson was collaborating with lyricist Tony Asher on a new batch of songs slated to comprise The Beach Boys next LP, “Pet Sounds.” Wilson had been riding high for the past five years writing most of the group’s hits, from “In My Room” and “Don’t Worry Baby” through “California Girls” and “I Get Around.” He developed a healthy if grudging respect for the songs of The Beatles when they first appeared on U.S. charts in early 1964. By late 1965, though, his confidence faltered when he heard their album “Rubber Soul,” which knocked him off his feet. “Those songs were so wonderful,” Wilson recalled, “and I felt that I really had to up my game if we were still going to be able to stay up with them.”

Wilson sat at the piano, working his way through melodies and chord progressions, landing on some that didn’t seem like the pop music he’d been writing but still intrigued him. Asher said, “I was there with Brian, and I came up with what I felt was a grabber of a first line: ‘I may not always love you.’ Brian argued against it, but I really liked that twist, and I defended it by writing the next couple of lines as, ‘But long as there are stars above you, you’ll never need to doubt it.

Asher continued, “Then there was a disagreement about using ‘God’ in not only the words but the title. We had lengthy conversations about that, because unless you were Kate Smith singing ‘God Bless America,’ no one thought you could say ‘God’ in a pop song.  Brian said, ‘We’ll just never get any air play.’ But some people told him it was “an opportunity to be really far out because it would cause some controversy, which he didn’t mind at all. So we kept it in.”

The song, of course, is “God Only Knows,” which has been described by Paul McCartney as “the greatest song ever written” and by multiple Grammy-winning songwriter Jimmy Webb as “my favorite song of all time.” Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees has said, “When I first heard it, it blew the top of my head off. My first thought was, ‘Oh dear, I’m wasting my time, how can I ever compete with that?'”

It’s been recorded by literally hundreds of artists from Andy Williams to David Bowie, from Manhattan Transfer to Michael BublĂ©, and in 2014, a special recording of it was made involving Wilson and such luminaries as Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Chrissie Hynde, Pharrell Williams, Chris Martin and Lorde. There’s an astonishing version by a guy named Nicholas Wells that features his multi-tracked voice doing all the harmonies that’ll send chills up your spine. The Beach Boys original recording of it has also been used in many film soundtracks like “Love Actually” and “Boogie Nights.”

Even so, Wilson, who had the most amazing ear and musical sense, was right about one thing: It didn’t get much air play, at least not at first. It stalled at #39 on the U.S. charts upon first release, although it went to #2 in England, where perhaps the use of “God” in a pop song wasn’t such a problem.

Tony Asher (left) and Brian Wilson

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Life’s tragic twists

Irony can be humorous — like when a truck carrying old discarded tires has a blowout — but it can also be mighty cruel. That’s the sad case with singer-songwriter Jim Croce.

Croce was in bands and coffeehouse trios and in a men’s chorus in college at Villanova University in Philadelphia, and cut an album, “Facets,” in a Delaware studio at age 23 for $500. He married his wife Ingrid, also a singer, in 1966 and performed with her as a duo, doing covers of popular songs, mostly in small clubs on the East Coast college circuit. They recorded an album for Capitol Records, “Jim and Ingrid Croce,” in 1969, comprised of a dozen songs they had written. Neither of these recordings made them much money, and even the pay they received for gigs wasn’t covering the rent. They became disillusioned with the music business, and moved to a farm in Pennsylvania.

Croce took to working various odd jobs — truck driver, welder, construction work, teaching guitar lessons — but he couldn’t shake his desire to keep writing songs, often with lyrics about his experiences at those jobs (case in point: “Working at the Car Wash Blues,” eventually recorded in 1973). This continued for another two years or so, as he and Ingrid struggled to make ends meet, but once she found out she was expecting, Croce became more focused on making music his profession.

Ingrid, A.J. and Jim Croce

In 1972, a demo tape he shopped around was turned down by three dozen labels, but his perseverance paid off when RCA Records signed him to a three-record deal. His first single, the upbeat, whimsical “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” from the debut album of the same name, made its way up the charts, and reached #8 in September 1972. The more downbeat, poignant “Operator” followed, peaking at #17 in December, and things looked promising. He made appearances on “American Bandstand,” “The Tonight Show,” “Dick Cavett” and “Midnight Special,” as another original song about a rough-and-tumble sort, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” spent two weeks as the nation’s #1 song in July of 1973.

His next album and its title song, “I Got a Name,” poised for release on September 21, seemed to say it all. Croce was on a roll and had finally established himself as a successful singer-songwriter. But all the touring required to support his records wore him down, and he missed his wife and young son A.J. In a letter to Ingrid dated September 17, Croce told her he had decided once the current tour ended to quit music and stick to writing short stories and movie scripts as a career and withdraw from public life.

But fate intervened, and on September 20, Croce and four others, heading from one gig to another, were killed when their twin-engine plane crashed during takeoff in Louisiana.

“I Got a Name” was released the next day as planned and reached #10, and “Time in a Bottle,” released a few months later, was a posthumous #1 hit, but Croce never got to enjoy their success.

This photo of A.J. Croce holding his dad’s hat
appeared on the inside sleeve of Croce’s “Greatest
Hits” collection in 1974

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