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Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts to Present Croce Plays Croce

October 18, 2021  | 3 min read

A.J. Croce and Jim CroceMusician A.J. Croce will pay homage to his father, folk singer Jim Croce, in Croce Plays Croce at Pepperdine University's Smothers Theatre in Malibu on Friday, October 22, 2021, at 8 PM.

Jim Croce was an American folk singer with a short-lived professional recording and touring career, and decades of posthumous fame as one of the greatest songwriters and artists ever, with sales surpassing 50 million records, including three #1 songs and 10 Top 10 hits.

A.J. Croce’s 25-year touring and recording career has produced 10 studio albums that have been released via both major and independent labels, and have charted 18 Top 20 singles and all 10 albums on the radio including on Top 40, Americana, and blues. A virtuoso piano player, Croce has toured with such esteemed artists as Willie Nelson, Lenny Kravitz, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and B.B. King. A.J.’s latest album project Just Like Medicine, out on Compass Records, features Vince Gill and Steve Cropper, and was produced by Muscle Shoals legend Dan Penn.

Over the past three decades, A.J. Croce has established his reputation as a piano player and serious vocal stylist who pulls from a host of musical traditions and anti-heroes—part New Orleans, part juke joint, part soul.

Over his 10 studio albums, it’s clear that Croce holds an abiding love for all types of musical genres: blues, soul, pop, jazz, and rock n’ roll. A virtuosic piano player, Croce toured with B.B. King and Ray Charles before reaching the age of 21, and, over his career, he has performed with a wide range of musicians, from Willie Nelson to the Neville Brothers; Béla Fleck to Ry Cooder. Croce has also co-written songs with such formidable tunesmiths as Leon Russell, Dan Penn, Robert Earl Keen and multi-GRAMMY winner Gary Nicholson. His albums have all charted across a diverse spectrum: Top 40, blues, Americana, jazz, college, and radio 1, to name a few. The Nashville-based singer/songwriter also has landed 18 singles on a variety of Top 20 charts. While it’s clear Croce's recordings and shows span many aforementioned genres, his tastes and extended influences reach even further to classical styles and world music styles from Latin jazz to music of Africa, Eastern Europe, or India.

Croce's deep love for music is understandable considering that his mother, Ingrid, was a singer/songwriter as was his father, the late Jim Croce. His father died in a tragic plane crash just before his second birthday. A.J., who started playing piano at a young age, purposely avoided his father’s music in order to establish his own identity as a musician. A.J.’s relationship with his father’s music began changing around a dozen years ago, when he began digitizing his father’s tapes. One old cassette contained a bar performance of Jim Croce playing blues tunes that had influenced him. These were deep-cuts by folks like Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Blake, Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry, and A.J. was amazed since these songs were the ones that he had been playing since he was 12.

After more than 25 years making his own musical mark, he began performing some of his dad’s songs live and forming a special show out of it. In the past couple years,Croce has begun periodically performing a Croce Plays Croce concert, where he does Jim Croce songs, his own tunes, and songs that influenced the two of them. He loves seeing “the joy it brings audiences,” as well as enjoying that he can keep the shows fresh and exciting because he has the flexibility to change up the set list each time out.

A.J.'s family musical legacy is just part of his very unique life story. Born outside of Philadelphia, A.J. moved with his mother and father to San Diego just before he turned two. Around the age of four, he went blind due to horrific physical abuse from his mother’s then-boyfriend. A.J. was hospitalized for half a year and was totally blind in both eyes for six years. It was during this time that he started playing piano, inspired by blind pianists like Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. A.J., who regained sight in his left eye when he was ten, went on to spend his early teen years performing, including at his mother’s establishment, Croce’s Jazz Bar.

For additional information, and to purchase tickets, visit the Center for the Arts website.