A Tribute to Jim Croce’s Life and Legacy

NSU Student Documentary: THE NIGHT THE MUSIC DIED – YouTube

The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame & Northwest Louisiana History Museum hosted a standing room only crowd of music lovers for the ”Photographs and Memories-a Salute to Jim Croce” event on Monday evening, September 18.

The program was held two days before the 50th anniversary of singer/songwriter Jim Croce’s death in a plane crash while taking off from the Natchitoches airport after a concert at NSU’s Prather Coliseum on Sept. 20, 1973.  

Natchitoches Mayor Ronnie Williams read a proclamation passed by the city council at its last meeting declaring September 20th as “Jim Croce Day” in the City of Natchitoches. Donna Baker, director of NSU’s Cammie Henry Research Center, also provided some articles concerning Croce’s final concert from the archive’s holdings to complement an array of photos and materials from the musician’s career and time in Natchitoches.

Four students from NSU Associate Professor Melody Gilbert’s Documentary Production Class made a 2022 short film on Croce’s last concert, featuring background information and interviews with former students who attended the concert. The 18-minute short was screened for the audience. One of the people appearing in the film is Melanie Babin Torbett, who as a reporter for the NSU Current Sauce, was the last person to interview the singer.

Billy O’Con, an iconic figure of the local music scene who portrayed Jim Croce in the 1997 movie “Jim Croce – Last Night in Natchitoches, a Story of Life, not Loss,” performed some of Croce’s hit songs for the crowd drawing several standing ovations along with many audience members singing along.

Film maker Robert Langpaap has produced a 52-minue documentary movie “Jim Croce: You Know the Songs, Now Know the Story.” Monday’s event included a short clip from the upcoming film which will premiere at the museum this fall.

Lastly, there was a panel discussion featuring Dan McDonald, Torbett and Rodney Harrington, all of whom were NSU students who attended what was to be Croce’s final concert. Audience members Monday also contributed remarks and memories.

The event was a fitting remembrance of a now legendary singer and songwriter who was taken from us all too soon and who is forever intertwined with our history.