#727: 1973, Jim Croce, I Got a Name

by Charlie_East_West on July 28, 2013

Americana music, as defined by the Americana Music Association (AMA), is “contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw.”

Americana music has always been my favourite genre of music. For today’s Song To Learn And Sing, I bring you an absolute belter from the archives of Americana…

Jim Croce, singer-songwriter of Bad Bad Leroy Brown and Time in a Bottle, was at the height of his career when he was killed in a plane crash while on tour in September 1973. He was 30 years old. What a tragic cut off to his life and talent.

For me, there is one song by Jim Croce that stands out head and shoulders above all the others. It is his wonderful song I Got a Name. It was released in 1973 and was the first single from his album of the same title. It reached a peak of number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 after spending 17 weeks on the chart.

I Got a Name was the theme song for the 1973 film The Last American Hero. It also featured in the films The Ice Storm, Invincible, and most recently the Quentin Tarantino film, Django Unchained. The song comes at a pivotal moment within the film, and it provided the definitive soundtrack for Tarantino’s latest creative take on yet another buddy movie – this time wrapped around the concept of racial slavery. As the song itself is about pride for the family name and how to use it to live life to the full and be free – it feels particularly relevant within this film. But, it just (and only just) avoids taking that awkward step over the line towards mawkishness.

The use of I Got a Name within Django Unchained (a film which I have a love/hate relationship with) feels like the middle eight section within the film. It is the moment that trust and respect is formed between Django Freeman (Jamie Foxx) and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) as they saddle up their horses, nod towards each other and ride off into the sunset across America.

The song itself is outstanding. Whenever I listen to this song, I feel like I have walked into a Americana based movie – either driving off down a highway to a destination unknown, or, riding out of a one horse town in search of a new frontier. It is evocative stuff:-

Like the pine trees lining the winding road
I’ve got a name
I’ve got a name
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad
I’ve got a name
I’ve got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I’m living the dream that he kept hid
Moving me down the highway
Rolling me down the highway
Moving ahead so life won’t pass me by

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