NSU documentary tributes Jim Croce

Film students at NSU presented a documentary to mark 50 years since singer-songwriter Jim Croce's death in Natchitoches on September 20, 1973.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 10:16 PM CDT
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NATCHITOCHES, La. (KALB) - On September 20, 1973, the American folk-rock singer-songwriter Jim Croce was killed in a plane crash after taking off from the Natchitoches airport. Now, a documentary titled “The Night The Music Died”, made by film students at Northwestern State University, remembers Croce nearly 50 years after his tragic death.

“NSU is known for mostly Steel Magnolias the movie, and I feel like Jim Croce and what happened here is something that could really bring people to this area and celebrate his life,” said Melody Gilbert, a filmmaker and professor at NSU who provided the idea for the project. “I’m obsessed with Jim Croce. My students knew nothing about Jim Croce.”

The film reunites former writers from the Current Sauce, NSU’s student newspaper – Melanie Torbett Babin, Dan McDonald, and Janet Tompkins Vanhoof, each sharing their memories from Croce’s last concert ever in Natchitoches.

“He told his wife in the famous letter that he had written to her a few days before all this happened at one of his other stops that said, ‘The first 60 years are the most important, and I’ve got 30 more with you,’” McDonald said in the documentary.

McDonald remembers that concert like it was yesterday.

“The carnage still stays with me today. I can still see it 50 years later,” said McDonald. “The massive destruction. You couldn’t even tell it was an airplane.”

He said while he was at a diner, someone called him to the airport to see what had happened – a tragedy to a rising star. But that did not stop McDonald from listening to the legend.

“I tend to listen to nothing but oldies radio and every time there’s a song that comes on, and it will trigger a memory,” McDonald said.

It did not stop film students who were not even born yet from relating to Croce.

“I try to listen to his music – I like his music a lot, I really do,” said Colie Plaster, a former film student who helped produce the documentary. “I bought his 50th-anniversary record and gave it to one of my friends for his birthday. I think it’s beautiful music.”

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