Croce's family moved west to San Diego, California, shortly before his father's death in a 1973 plane crash, where he was raised by his mother, Ingrid Croce.
At the age of four, Croce was completely blinded as the result of physical abuse from his mother's boyfriend. Between the ages of four and ten, Croce gradually regained vision in his left eye. It was during this difficult time in Croce's life that he began to play the piano. "I learned to play music by listening and playing along to the radio and to records." Croce says, "At some point I was given the music of Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder as inspiration, which it was, and has been ever since."
Croce's first paying gig was at the age of 12, when he was paid $20 to perform at a Bar Mitzvah party. By the age of 16, Croce was performing regularly at San Diego nightclubs as a sideman and band leader. Croce reflected, "I was into every kind of music... you might say I was unfocused, but I consider an eclectic taste in music to be the foundation of versatility." His house burned down when he was 15.
Croce and his wife Marlo have two children, daughter Camille and son Elijah.
Ron Goldstein and Peter Baumann of Private Music signed Croce to his first recording contract at age 19. He recorded two albums for Private Music: his self-titled debut, A. J. Croce, produced by T-Bone Burnett and John Simon, and That's Me in the Bar, produced by Jim Keltner, and featuring Ry Cooder and David Hidalgo. Croce is also the owner/operator of his own record label, Seedling Records.
Croce's third album, Fit to Serve, was recorded in Memphis and produced by Jim Gaines, who produced Van Morrison, Santana, and the Steve Miller Band. Croce then took a musical turn with the release of his album Transit. He explained, "I had been playing blues-based music for a long time, and I was ready to try something new." Transit was compared by critics to the work of John Lennon, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison. Glen Starkey of New Times labeled Croce "a song crafter of the first order".
Croce's next three albums were self-produced. Adrian James Croce (Croce's only pop-oriented album) was the only independently produced album of 2004 to chart in Top 40 charts in America. In Europe it was on the charts for six months, sitting in between songs by U2 and Coldplay. That same year Adrian James Croce won Best Pop album at the San Diego Music Awards. His 2006 album Cantos on his own label, Seedling Records, notably features Ben Harper. In 2009, his album Cage of Muses was released on Seedling, garnering a 4-star review from Rolling Stone magazine.
In 2013, Croce signed with Compass Records and released Twelve Tales. He recorded two songs with each of six producers in five U.S. cities throughout a yearlong period, simultaneously releasing one song per month exclusively on iTunes in 2013. The full album was released on CD and LP in 2014. The album's producers were 'Cowboy' Jack Clement, famous for his work with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash; Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer Allen Toussaint, producer of Dr. John and Irma Thomas; Golden Globe-nominated Mitchell Froom, whose work includes Randy Newman and Crowded House; Grammy-winning engineer and producer Kevin Killen, who produced multiple albums by Elvis Costello; Notable A&R executive and record producer Tony Berg, whose sessions have included Bob Dylan and Fiona Apple; and Greg Cohen, avant-garde bass player and producer, known for his work with Tom Waits. Croce co-wrote a few of the songs on Twelve Tales, including one song with songwriter Leon Russell. Croce's albums have charted on eight radio charts including AAA, Blues, College, Jazz, and Americana.
He has performed as an opening act for Carlos Santana, Rod Stewart, Aretha Franklin, Dr. John, Lyle Lovett, James Brown, B.B. King, Dave Matthews, Earth, Wind and Fire, Rod Stewart and Ray Charles. Croce has sat in with many notable artists live, including Willie Nelson, Ben Harper, Ry Cooder, the Neville Brothers, Waylon Jennings, and David Hidalgo (Los Lobos). He has also performed on national television, on shows including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Today Show, Good Morning America, MTV, CNN, and Austin City Limits.
In 2013, Croce was asked to be a performer at TEDxLaJolla, an independently produced TED ("Ideas Worth Spreading") event, the organization who organizes annual events with speakers on groundbreaking advances is technology, entertainment, and design.A. J. Croce (Private Music, 1993)
That's Me in the Bar (Private Music, 1995)
Fit to Serve (1998)
Adrian James Croce (2004)
Early On – The American Recordings 1993–1998 (2005)
Cage of Muses (2009)
Twelve Tales (2014)
Just Like Medicine (2017)