I have a theory, and the theory that I have, which is mine, is that John Fogerty is the greatest rock ’n’ roller of all time. When it comes to incredible singing, brilliant songwriting, and killer guitar, nobody can touch him.
At the age of 62, Fogerty’s still going strong—and, boy, do we need him now. Back in ’69, as the driving force behind Creedence Clearwater Revival, he was sticking it to the Pentagon’s warmongers with “Fortunate Son”; in 2004 he released the solo album Deja Vu All Over Again, which boasted a title track that eloquently lambasted the bloodbath in Iraq. Fogerty comes by his antiwar bias honestly: he was 20 when he received a draft notice to serve in Vietnam.
“Like everybody my age, I didn’t feel good about it,” he recalls from a tour bus en route to Toronto. “I didn’t agree with the war, didn’t agree with the way things were being handled. So I managed to get myself into an army reserve unit, and I was a very, very lucky guy to have had that happen.”
Fogerty keeps the political fires burning on his upcoming CD, Revival—which is set for release in September—but only on a couple of tracks. He’s much more concerned with rockin’ things old-school. (One of the songs is actually called “Creedence Song”.) “The whole tone of the album is pretty upbeat,” he explains. “All the songs could have come at any time during my time with CCR.”
Creedence split up on bad terms in 1972, and Fogerty distanced himself from original drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford and bassist Stu Cook. But the rhythm section has been touring steadily since 1995 in an outfit deceptively known as Creedence Clearwater Revisited, performing Fogerty’s classic compositions with a sound-alike vocalist. The group played the recent Merritt Mountain Music Festival and was being carelessly billed by Vancouver radio stations as CCR. Fogerty isn’t happy that fans of the original CCR might be fooled into thinking that he’s involved with the Revisited rip-off.
“Thirty-five years ago we had an agreement within the band that either all of us would be using the name or nobody would. And so, as with a lot of things that happened after the band broke up, some people’s idea of the truth kind of changed over the years.”
Fogerty was the true heart and soul of CCR. He was the singer, songwriter, and lead guitarist on deathless swamp-rock gems like “Bad Moon Rising”, “Run Through the Jungle”, and “Up Around the Bend”. My all-time favourite Creedence tune is either “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” or “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”, depending on the weather. Fogerty is a little more decisive. “The song that I’ve always felt was really the very centre of the music I was writing and creating was ”˜Green River’, both the song and the album. I just felt that I had really kind of landed at ground zero when I came up with that sound, I guess you’d say.”
And what a sound it is: primal, engrossing, and dripping with a Louisiana bayou vibe. So how did a guy from the Bay Area of California develop such a steamy feel? It helped that he was heavily influenced by southern bluesmen like Bo Diddley and Howlin’ Wolf.
“There was that element that I gravitated to,” he says, “and just culturally I really seemed to pick up on books or movies that were placed in the South or had a southern theme. I can’t tell you why, I just always thought it was cool.”
Another thing that Fogerty thinks is cool is performing with his teenage sons, Shane and Tyler. Several times on his current Canadian tour they’ve shown up on-stage to play the jaunty foot stomper “Down on the Corner” with him. But considering the ages of his offspring, you’ve gotta wonder if that feeling of déjí vu Fogerty sings about isn’t a particularly scary one for him these days. The way things are going in Iraq and Afghanistan, is it really such a stretch to think that the military draft might be reinstated?
“Put it this way,” he says. “If the Republicans were somehow able to hang on to the administration past the next election, there’s no telling what they’re capable of. I just hope and pray that doesn’t happen.”
Although Fogerty is no fan of Dubya and his neo-con cronies—“those people are not nice people”—it appears that the feeling of ill will isn’t mutual. Bush reportedly has Fogerty’s ode to baseball, “Centerfield”, on his iPod. “That’s a little ironic,” contends the pro-peace rock god. “I wish he’d listen a little more to the rest of my catalogue.”
John Fogerty plays Deer Lake Park next Thursday (August 2).