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- Posted on Oct 5th 2007 5:00PM by Gaylord Fields
The title of John Fogerty's just-released album, 'Revival,' clearly hearkens back to his late '60s-early '70s heyday as the main singer and songwriter in one of the Bay Area's finest and most successful rock groups, Creedence Clearwater Revival. The comparison also extends to the songs themselves on this highly critically praised release, which, like the best of Fogerty's Creedence and solo material, manages to deliver sterling examples of both the good-time rock 'n' roll and the populist political sentiments that have been hallmarks of his most indelible classic songs.
Fogerty's revival is also of a personal nature, as he credits his wife, Julie, with rekindling his creative fire. A concurrent factor in his resurrection is that, as one of rock's finest social commentators, he once again finds himself angered by a tragic war he doesn't agree with, and he freely shares his fear that Iraq has become another Vietnam. He also talks about his struggles to prevent his songs from being misused in commercials, the reason he rejoined the record label that had caused him so much anguish in the past, and why he feels as Southern as a boy from Northern California can feel.
The new album's title, 'Revival,' makes a rather bold reference to your former band's name. How does the record tie in to your past work?
The title came to my wife, Julie. Of course, you notice it's 'Revival' and that makes a connection, and for that very reason when she first told me, I kinda went, "Well, hmm ... that's kind of obvious." [laughs] She explained to me what 'Revival' meant to her: My life had been a journey, a happy time way back when I was having success and then sort of meandering down the road through some rough times, and that I seem to have now come to a place where I'm really happy in my personal life, which is, of course, true.
Some of the songs on 'Revival' are very celebratory, yet others are very critical of the status quo. Do you consider yourself optimistic or pessimistic in nature?
Oh, I think as a human being I'm an optimist. I think I've always had a lot of hope, and certainly, you know, I went through some, let's say, rough times. There's a song on this album called 'Broken Down Cowboy' about the time that Julie met me, I was that guy. Happily, in the years that have gone on since, as I've grown with Julie and we've raised a family, I'm very much a hopeful and optimistic guy now. So that poor guy in 'Broken Down Cowboy,' he's somebody I can write about and relate to, but I'm not that guy anymore.
Being in a better frame of mind allows you to make music that's happy, but, ironically, it also helps you make angry music. For example, in your career you've criticized wars from Vietnam to, now, Iraq.
Of course, I certainly have personal convictions. I happen to be a left-leaning, or liberal, person; Democrat if you will -- not that I always agree with Democrats. But in our pretty much two-party system if you're going to vote and have the vote be worth anything, you usually have to line up somewhere where you think it's gonna do some good. I tend to be philosophically liberal, in the sense that I certainly think we need to take care of the less fortunate, we need to have social programs, we need to have a good educational system for our children. I also don't believe in people of wealth just making unlimited profits and screw the rest of us. I think that the rich should pay for the privilege for being rich, for one thing.
Most of the time I keep quiet about my personal feelings because I'm a musician and a rock 'n' roller, and I love playing guitar. The creative and artful side of me is usually plenty. But every now and then, particularly with the situation that we have now with the war, certainly the war in I disagree with completely. I understand our, let's say, payback, going to Afghanistan, but the war in Iraq I just see as a tragedy, particularly from the point of view that we're sending our kids to go over and die. I mean, that got my attention because I lived through Vietnam. And that was such a tragic misuse of our American lives and also really no clear mission and no clear strategy as a war. It ended up just being, you know, something we looked back on sort of tragically wound down at the end. We didn't know what to do, we just left.
You wrote about poor kids fighting the rich man's war with 'Fortunate Son,' but it's the same story all over again with Iraq. That particular song is presented from a working-class point of view. How has your own background informed your outlook?
I grew up in a little town in Northern
Being that you had no control over it, how did you adjust to the idea of hearing 'Fortunate Son' being misapplied to sell bluejeans?
Yes, the people that owned Fantasy Records also owned all my early songs, and they would do all kinds of stuff I really hated in a commercial way with my songs. And basically that was the last straw when they gave the song to Wrangler to sell pants, is the way I put it. They turned my song into pants. I, of course, informed Fantasy Records -- at that time they were still owned by the owner that had been there during the Creedence era. I informed them that I didn't like what they were doing, and that's about all that could be done. Then one day somebody from the L.A. Times actually bothered to call me up and ask me how I felt, and I finally had a chance to talk about it. And I said I'm very much against my song being used to sell pants. I said if there's some other [Creedence] song that was probably just a simple rock 'n' roll song, maybe I wouldn't feel so strongly, but 'Fortunate Son' has a real point to it. So my position got stated very well in the newspaper, and lo and behold, Wrangler to their credit said, "Wow, even though we made our agreement with the publisher, the owner of the song, we can see now that John Fogerty really hates the idea," so they stopped doing it.
You've come full circle: Now that Fantasy has new ownership, you're back with the label. How does it feel returning to a place holds so many memories, both pleasant and unpleasant?
It was a way, finally, for me to be reconnected and re-associated with the music I had made so long ago. I must say I was totally disconnected from it, and even angry at it. As you may know, I even stopped; I refused to play those [Creedence] songs.
Was it that you would just not play those songs because you didn't want to put a penny in their pocket?
Yeah, that's kinda roughly the idea. It was more probably just feeling so bitter about the fact that they owned the songs and that they were doing what I consider to be horrible things with my songs. That whole time was very awful and confusing to me, and seeing a chance to reconnect with the music, that's the wonderful thing that happened. In the olden days, back in the '70s and '80s, I used to try and figure out how would I ever resolve this. What mountains would have to fall from the sky? I could never come up with a scenario; I couldn't figure out what would ever make something go in a positive direction. And, lo and behold, something finally did happen.
There's such a timelessness to Creedence songs like 'Proud Mary' -- they sounds like they always existed and you just grabbed them out of the air. What influenced your songwriting, and what did you listen to growing up?
Well, of course, the early rock 'n' roll records, which I didn't really stop to analyze or examine until later, but the early rock 'n' roll records were pretty much Southern. All that Sun [Records] stuff was very much a Southern phenomenon, and my other favorite place, Chess Records, even thought the label was located in Chicago, all their artists were basically Southern. So a lot of that just seeped into my own conscious, or subconscious, actually. I really had a fascination with Southern culture. It was quite unusual to me, 'cause I was growing up as a middle-class suburban kid in
You synthesize Southern music so thoroughly that it must be the ultimate tribute when actual Southern artists do versions of your songs.
As I grew, I kept my own influences intact within myself and kind of embellished on those great records like Elvis singing 'My Baby Left Me' or Carl Perkins' great stuff, Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, Dale Hawkins, all these wonderful records. The