Creedence Clearwater Revival

Published Date: January 24th, 2007
Category: Entertainment

St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture by Kembrew McLeod

By the late 1960s, when Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) released its first album, rock ‘n’ roll was transforming into rock, the more “advanced” and “sophisticated” cousin of the teenaged riot whipped up by Elvis Presley and Little Richard. While their contemporaries (Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, etc.) were expanding the sonic and lyrical boundaries of Rock ‘n’ Roll, CCR bucked the trend by returning to the music’s roots. On their first album and their six subsequent releases, this Bay Area group led by John Fogerty fused primal rockabilly, swamp-boogie, country, r&b and great pop songwriting, and–in doing so–became one of the biggest selling rock bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Most of the members of CCR played in what were essentially bar bands around San Francisco and its suburbs. Along with El Cerrito junior high school friends Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, Tom and John Fogerty formed the Blue Velvets in the late 1950s. The group eventually transformed into the Golliwogs, recording a number of singles for the Berkeley-based label, Fantasy, and then changed its name to Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1967. If the Blue Velvets and the Golliwogs were dominated by Tom Fogerty, then Creedence Clearwater Revival was John Fogerty’s vehicle, with John writing and singing the vast majority of CCR’s songs. It was clear that John Fogerty’s influence was what made the group popular, because under Tom’s control, the Golliwogs essentially went nowhere. Further, when John let other members gain artistic control on CCR’s Pendulum, that album became the first CCR album not to go platinum.

Like Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty’s songs tackle subjects that cut deep into America’s core; and like any great artist, Fogerty was able to transcend his own experience and write realistic and believable songs (for instance, the man who wrote “Born on the Bayou” had never even been to Louisiana’s bayous until decades later). Despite Fogerty’s talents as a songwriter, CCR’s first hits from its debut album were covers–Dale Hawkins’ “Suzie Q” and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You.” But with the release of “Proud Mary” backed with “Born on the Bayou” from CCR’s second album, the group released a series of original compositions that dominated the U.S. Billboard charts for three years.

Despite its great Top Forty success and its legacy as the preeminent American singles band of the late 1960s, CCR was able to cultivate a counter-cultural and even anti-commercial audience with its protest songs and no-frills rock ‘n’ roll. Despite the fact that they were products of their time, “Run Through the Jungle,” “Fortunate Son,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” and CCR’s other protest songs remain timeless classics because of John’s penchant for evoking nearly-universal icons (for North American’s, at least) rather than specific cultural references.

John’s dominance proved to be the key to the band’s success and the seeds of its dissolution, with Tom leaving the group in 1971 and John handing over the reigns to be split equally with Stu Cook and Doug Clifford, who equally contributed to the group’s last album, Mardi Gras, which flopped. Tom released a few solo albums, and so did John, who refused to perform his CCR songs well until the early 1990s as the result of a bitter legal dispute that left control of the CCR catalog in the hands of Fantasy Records. One of the most bizarre copyright infringement lawsuits took place when Fantasy sued Fogerty for writing a song from his 1984 Centerfield album that sounded too much like an old CCR song. After spending $300,000 in legal fees and having to testify on the stand with his guitar to demonstrate how he wrote songs, Fogerty won the case.

Kembrew McLeod “ Creedence Clearwater Revival“. St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture. 20020129. 23 Jan. 2007.

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