This was the theme song for the 1973 movie The Last American Hero starring Jeff Bridges as a stock car racer. The movie is based on the true story of the stock car driver Junior Johnson.
This is a rare song that Croce recorded but did not write. Ingrid Croce, who was married to Jim from 1966 until his death in 1973, told us: "It was written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox. And they were wonderful guys, really nice people. Jim had been selected to sing this song for this particular movie. He really enjoyed this opportunity, because he went into the recording studio and it was a little awkward for him not to hold his guitar - his guitar is kind of like a bar for the bartender, having that prop between him and the audience was just a real security, it made him feel very comfortable. So putting down the guitar to sing, just to sing the song in the studio, was a very unusual thing for Jim, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a brand new start for him in some ways, to use his vocals in a different way. I think it's one of the most powerful songs he does on that album for sure. I loved it."
Explaining how this song was a good fit for her husband, Ingrid says: "More people think he wrote that song. His voice was so unique... the timbre in his tone and his warmth and his generosity, everything came through that voice. So when he took a song, he'd make it his own, and I think he did a great job with 'I've Got A Name.' So many people like to think of Jim with that song that I hate to tell them it isn't his."
The album was produced by Terry Cashman and Tommy West, who had a hit as Cashman & West with "American City Suite." Says Cashman: "We recorded it because Jim was going to get a lot of money to record the song, and if it was released as a single, it would be the main title of a movie called The Last American Hero. So it wasn't a song that Jim wrote on the guitar with Maury [Muehleisen]. Tommy and Jimmy and Maury and myself came up with the arrangement together. It was a different kind of animal. We did that song with just the tracks for us, and then recorded Jim's voice over it, which is the way most people did records in those days. But most people think that Jim wrote that song because it sounds like the other songs, and then the production of course is a little bit more elaborate. It was different in that way, but Maury has a big guitar part and it certainly sounded like one of his records. And it became one of his most popular records. You know, a lot of people have covered that song, and it's been used in a number of other movies."
This was the last song Croce played before his death. He performed it as an encore at show in Natchitoches, Louisiana at Northwestern College. The crowd was small, as many folks stayed home to watch the Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match that night. Croce's plane, taking off in the dark after the concert, clipped a tree and crashed, killing all six people on board.
Quentin Tarantino used this song in his 2012 film Django Unchained. The film is set in 1858, but features some modern music, including cuts by Rick Ross and John Legend. The song was used in a scene were Django (Jamie Foxx) has been freed.
Jim Croce's son A.J. Croce recorded the song for a 2018 Goodyear tire ad that pays tribute to famed racecar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr, whose father, NASCAR Hall of Fame member Dale Earnhardt Sr. died in a car crash at age 49.
Both A.J. and Earnhardt Jr. lost their fathers young, and Croce said that the similarities between Earnhardt Jr.'s life and his own made contributing to the commercial appealing to him:
"There aren't a lot of people that grow up in the shadows of a famous musician, or race car driver," he explained to ABC Radio. "I get what he lived through, and he gets what I lived through."