Adrian James AJ Croce (born September 28, 1971) is an American singer-songwriter. He is the son of Ingrid Croce and Jim Croce.
Croce was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, on September 28, 1971. His father died in a plane crash eight days before the boy’s second birthday, and he and his newly widowed mother had to move to San Diego, almost 3,000 miles from his native city, with the rest of his family. Two years later, he was temporarily blinded as a result of serious physical abuse at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend. When he was 15 the house in which he had lived for most of his life burned down.
Is AJ Croce blind now?
A.J. Croce went blind in 1974 as a result, he says, of abuse from his mother’s then-boyfriend. A.J. was hospitalized for an extended period. He eventually regained the vision in his left eye.
A.J. Croce has experienced the transformative power of music for much of his life, be it as a vehicle for celebration and contemplation, transcendent love and profound loss, and many points in between.
With his 10th and newest album, the cathartic “By Request,” music provides a life-affirming way for him to grieve losing his wife of 24 years, Marlo, who died suddenly in 2018 from a rare and sudden heart virus.
But Croce does not achieve that catharsis with his own songs. Instead, he turns to funk, rock, blues, soul, pop and country favorites by a dozen distinctly different artists, including Neil Young (“Only Love Can Break Your Heart”); Sam Cooke (“Nothing Can Change This Love”); the Five Stairsteps, (“O-o-h Child”); Randy Newman (“Have You Seen My Baby?”); and the Beach Boys (“Sail On Sailor”).
Those song titles alone tell a touching story about love and loss. Croce’s interpretations strike a deft balance that enables him to sound reverent while adding his own musical stamp. Of critical importance, these songs proved as welcoming to him as a performer channeling his emotions as they will to “By Request’s” listeners.
“I felt this album was a perfect bridge between the loss of my wife — she was my best friend — and the next album I do, which will be very personal,” Croce said by phone from East Nashville, where he and Marlo moved in 2015.
Did AJ Croce have a brain tumor?
At age three, Adrian James Croce suffered from a brain tumor which caused blindness. Several years later, partial sight inexplicably returned in one of his eyes.
Living in a single parent household after a plane crash near Natchitoches, Louisianna in September 1973 claimed his father’s life (the legendary Jim Croce, known for hits such as “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”), A.J. taught himself to play piano. At the age of six, he wrote songs and caressed piano keys eight to ten hours a day.
“I sat down and I played and I thought that Ray Charles was the easiest to learn,” said A.J. “As a little kid I’d play Ray Charles’ stuff and then the harder stuff, and the blues scale, and that did it for me. It didn’t take a lot to make it feel soulful and right. I didn’t know the names of the scale…F Major, F Diminished, and down the keyboard. It was a little bit at a time.
“I sang a lot and I was practicing, and, as a teenager, I was working on things like trying to get the left hand solid without thinking about playing with the right hand. The left hand stuff was demanding, making sure the left hand was completely solid, and that the left hand knew it and forgot it, before the right hand came along.”
A.J. Croce on reconnecting with his father, Jim Croce
The singer’s life reads like a blues song, a catalog of loss. A.J. Croce lost his father before he turned two, his sight when he was four, and, later, his home to fire and his wife to a rare heart condition. “Man, it’s been, it’s been a wild ride, I’ll tell you,” he said.
“When we lose someone we love, whether it was my father, my wife, my sight, we can decide how we want to bring it into our life. Do we want to dwell on it? Do we want to find the best part of that person, that experience, and keep it with us?”
It’s a question he’s wrestled with for decades. Now, at 50, he has an answer he’s sharing on stages across the country, playing songs that sound as familiar as the name: Croce, as in Jim Croce, the early 1970s singer/songwriter/balladeer whose string of hits included “Photographs and Memories,” “I Have to Say I Love You In a Song,” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”:
Nowhere more powerful than at a farmhouse outside Philadelphia, where A.J. lived with his parents as his father’s career was taking off – where album covers were inspired by farm buildings. Showing Axelrod the structure that was featured on “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim,” A.J. said, “It was originally used for pigs. And then it was for chickens!”
The farmhouse was where Jim Croce wrote his biggest hits: “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim,” “New York’s Not My Home,” “Operator,” “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” and “Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy).”
But the security his father’s success seemed to promise was also lost on that September night in 1973. A.J. said, “It was a very dark and violent period in my life, and it was very traumatic.”