The Sunday Dozen: John Fogerty

John Fogerty at Jazz Fest 2014.

Thus far I’ve focused on old favorites with long careers in this feature. That continues with this week’s selection, John Fogerty.

John Fogerty is not just one of the best rock and roll songwriters, he’s one of the best American songwriters ever. I put him up there with Cole Porter and the Gershwin brothers to name a few. Fogerty has written many songs that will stand the test of time: some of them are on this list. I started off with 25 possibilities this week. It was hard to cut them down, but editing is the essence of the Sunday Dozen.

I grew up on the Peninsula and Fogerty originally hails from nearby Oakland, California. Oddly enough, I never saw him in concert until I moved to New Orleans, and he relocated to Los Angeles. This is as good a place as any to dispose of the accent issue. Fogerty famously sings with a New Orleansy/Louisiana-ish accent. He’s not the only rock legend to sing with an accent: Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart both sing with American, not English accents. And Minnesotan Bob Dylan sings with an Okie twang of sorts in tribute to his hero Woody Guthrie.

Fogerty is perhaps our finest political songwriter because his best political songs are allusive, not didactic. Hell, he had to send a cease-and-desist letter to the Impeached Insult Comedian for playing Fortunate Son at a rally. Like the guy in You’re So Vain, the Donald probably thought that song was about him.

In addition to being a fabulous singer-songwriter, John Fogerty plays a mean guitar. He’s created some phenomenal riffs over the years. He put the rock in rockabilly. That’s an exaggeration but the man can shred.

John Fogerty took several extended breaks over the course of his fifty+ year career. He refused to play Creedence tunes live for many years because he signed away the rights to his songs when he inked his first record contract. His bitterness accelerated because of a plagiarism suit filed by Saul Zaentz of Fantasy Records infamy. Make that a self-plagiarism suit: he was accused of stealing a riff from Run Through The Jungle for an early solo song, The Old Man Down The Road. Fogerty prevailed and finally started playing his CCR songs in the Nineties. They’re his songs, after all.

Creedence Clearwater Revival had a messy end. They tried songwriting democracy on their final album, Mardi Gras. It did not work out well. John’s former bandmates Doug Clifford and Stu Cook have toured for years as Creedence Clearwater Revived. I was once at a party where a guy claimed they were better without John Fogerty. It wasn’t a joke but it provoked gales of laughter.

As usual, the list is in chronological order and reflects my personal taste. It’s divided evenly between Creedence songs and solo songs. I’ve included most of the songs that I’ve used for post titles over the years.

We begin with one of the best and most hypnotic guitar riffs ever devised by Fogerty. He wasn’t Born On The Bayou, he just sounds like he was.

Green River tells the tale of John’s youthful riparian vacations. Come on down to Green River.

Bad Moon Rising is one of John’s best-loved tunes. He has fun with it in concert, often changing “there’s a bad moon on the rise” to “there’s a bathroom on the right.” That’s useful information, especially during Mardi Gras.

It Came Out Of The Sky is a UFO rocker that name checks my least favorite countryman, Spiro Agnew.

I mentioned Fogerty’s political songs earlier: Fortunate Son is the best of the bunch that doesn’t mention rain. John had extra cred because he served in the Army before the Vietnam catastrophe.

I mentioned rainy anti-war anthems. Who’ll Stop The Rain is the one I had in mind.

Let’s move on to John Fogerty’s solo career, which is almost four times as long as his CCR tenure.

The Old Man Down The Road is always a highlight of any Fogerty live show. I’ve always wanted him to perform it in a medley with Run Through The Jungle, but I understand why he doesn’t. See above.

Centerfield is one of the biggest hits of John’s storied career. What’s not to love about a song that name checks Willie Mays? The video is pretty darn swell as well.

Southern Streamline is the opening track of my favorite Fogerty solo album, Blue Moon Swamp. Who among us doesn’t like a train song?

The tour in support of that album was the first time I saw John in concert. It was at the Saenger Theatre on Canal Street in New Orleans. He nearly blew the roof off the joint.

Deja Vu (All Over Again) is Fogerty’s anti-Iraq War anthem. It has a humorous twist as the title comes from one of baseball hall of famer Yogi Berra’s alleged malaprops. I say alleged because most Yogisms were manufactured by the media.

Don’t You Wish It Was True kicks off John’s terrific 2007 album Revival. It’s one of his most joyful songs.

New Orleans has always had a special place in John Fogerty’s heart. Long Dark Night is a song that reflects his post-Katrina, Iraq War fueled anger at Team Bush: “Brownie’s in the outhouse, Katrina on the line. Government’s a disaster but Georgie, he says it’s fine.”

Are you ready for some lagniappe? It’s a mixed bag of nuts this time. First, John with Eagles Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit covering a Rick Nelson hit.

Here’s John reinterpreting one of his biggest hits, Proud Mary, with a Louisiana touch. It has guest appearances by Jennifer Hudson, Allen Toussaint, and the Rebirth Brass Band.

Emmy Lou Harris’ cover of a song that just barely missed the list, Lodi.

Finally, a picture of John Fogerty in one of his signature flannel shirts. I have one like that. I call it my Fogerty shirt. What else?

One thought on “The Sunday Dozen: John Fogerty

  1. I love him too, but I did have to giggle when he won his suit with Saul Zaentz because of his lawyer pointing out that every song Fogerty wrote was basically the same song, playing in court several songs with the same four-chord progressions. The argument wasn’t factual, but it was enough to convince the judge that John was lust self-plagarizing.

Comments are closed.