Further down the road, Fogerty is now the optimist
Veteran of CCR looks to coming Foellinger show
July 7, 2021
It’s impossible to know what John Fogerty’s career would have been like if he hadn’t signed away the rights to the songs that he wrote for Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The man that owned the songs, Saul Zaentz of Fantasy Records, used the royalties to get into the film business. He later sued Fogerty (unsuccessfully) for writing solo songs that sounded too much like CCR songs.
In other words, Zaentz sued Fogerty for plagiarizing himself.
Fogerty watched helplessly as his work was used in TV commercials. For example, “Fortunate Son,” a song about how poor men end up fighting wars started by rich men, was used to sell jeans.
Dylan’s Good Advice
For many years, he refused to perform CCR songs because he didn’t want any of his money to go to Zaentz. But Fogerty, who performs July 15 at the Foellinger Theatre, said it was Bob Dylan who convinced him to perform CCR material again.
“We were standing on the stage at the Palomino in L.A.,” he told The Boston Globe, “And Dylan was up there and George Harrison was up there. We had all gone to see Taj Mahal, and, somehow, we ended up onstage singing ‘Twist and Shout.’ And I think George did ‘Honey Don’t,’ and Dylan did a song. And somebody said, ‘John, do “Proud Mary.”’ And the first thing that came out of my mouth was, ‘Aw, I don’t do those songs.’ Then Dylan literally turned to me and said, ‘John, if you don’t do “Proud Mary,” everybody is going to think it’s a Tina Turner song.’ And with Bob Dylan telling you this, it was irrefutable. So we did it.”
“That’s probably the most horrible decision anyone could make, and I’m sure it’s probably cost me in a business sense,” Fogerty told the Sarasota Herald Tribune. “But it was what my heart had to go through to get here. That’s what I had to go through to really be grateful and thankful for what I have now.”
After Fantasy Records was purchased by the Concord Music Group in November of 2004, Fogerty made peace with the new owners.
He said there is something sacred about the creativity that fuels songwriting, and it can easily be spoiled by the profane and all-too-knowable.
“Songwriting is the most elusive of musical gifts,” he told the Philadelphia Daily News. “If you have creativity and can write songs that resonate with other people, that’s an absolutely magical thing, and you want to hang on to the ownership.
“As you get older,” Fogerty continued, “those songs will help sustain your career. And if others — lawyers and managers and record company owners — wiggle that away from you, it becomes a lifelong source of bitterness and anger.”
Fogerty credits his wife, Julie, with helping him get through his own bitterness and anger.
“I’m humbly thankful that there was this human being that loved me and was able to get me out of the morass and quicksand that I was in,” Fogerty told freelance music writer Dave Gil De Rubio. “I just couldn’t figure it out. I’m sure this happens to people a lot in life, but I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to be out, but I just wasn’t very good at getting myself unstuck.
“She had an awful lot of patience with a guy that was certainly a real piece of work,” Fogerty said. “I was certainly alcoholic and miserable at times and not a real great protector of my life.”
Looking to the Future
Despite all the rock classics for which he is responsible, Fogerty said he doesn’t think of himself as a particularly gifted songwriter.
“I’ve written a lot of mediocre songs. I feel like you have to do a lot of ordinary, bad, and horrible stuff trying to get to the good stuff,” he told the Portland Press Herald. “I really have to work at this. The only difference between me and the next guy is that I keep working.”
Fogerty doesn’t like it when younger musicians treat him like some elder statesman of rock.
“I like to think my best work is still in front of me,” he told Paste Magazine. “I feel energized and honor-bound to get this stuff out of me. I feel like there are still a lot of songs to write and record and a lot of shows to play.”
Thanks to COVID-19, the shows he’s referring to were placed on hold for a while. Not surprisingly, Fogerty is grateful to get back on the road.
“The experience of playing live for any musician is the holy grail,” he expressed to the Saint John Telegraph-Journal. “That’s the main reason you’re doing it. It’s primal, going back to the caveman. Just the joyful experience of watching people sing along with these smiling faces. You’re all in this wonderful bond together, and you get that energy.”
Even with all he has been through, Fogerty is still looking up.
“I’m very much an optimist about life,” he said. “We can each individually control how we choose to see and react to our own world.”
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