Creedence Clearwater Revival fan and old car
Screenshot from "Fortunate Son (Official Music Video)" by Rory
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Creedence Clearwater Revival fan and old car
Screenshot from "Fortunate Son (Official Music Video)" by Rory

Though the band broke up decades ago, its music still remains.

The rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival saw its heyday in the 1960s and ‘70s. It consisted of guitarist and vocalist John Fogerty, guitarist Tom Fogerty, bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford. The band actually went through a few different names before deciding on its final one. John Fogerty, Cook and Clifford were in a group called The Blue Velvets, and when Tom Fogerty joined them, they changed the name to Tommy Fogerty and the Blue Velvets. They saw little success under this name and changed it again to The Golliwogs. However, their label head, Saul Zaentz, hated the name and wanted it changed.

The group brainstormed other names, which included Credence Nuball and the Ruby. They added another “e” to “Creedence” and took “Clearwater” from an Olympia Beer ad. “Revival” was added to the name because the band was getting a new record label and therefore a new start. 

Creedence Clearwater Revival’s music has been called “swamp rock” due to its combination of Southern rock, soul and blues. John Fogerty’s unique voice and the imagery in “Down On the Corner,” “Proud Mary,” “Green River” and especially “Born On the Bayou” make it easy to think that the Fogerty brothers, Cook and Clifford hailed from the Southern United States. However, all four members actually grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Creedence Clearwater Revival saw immense success and popularity in the short time they were together. Though they never reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, five of their songs reached No. 2, including “Lookin’ Out My Backdoor” and “Bad Moon Rising.” In 1970, the band was the best-selling in the world. Their albums from “Creedence Clearwater Revival” to “Willy and The Poor Boys” consistently increased in sales.

The band also played a part in one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most iconic moments: Woodstock. The 1969 music festival is known today for being a massive success despite the bad weather and last-minute changes, and Creedence Clearwater Revival was the first big-name band to agree to play.

While John Fogerty was initially excited about the opportunity, he felt that their performance was disappointing. Although they played in front of an audience of around 500,000, the crowd wasn’t very lively; the band’s performance had been pushed back to 2:30 a.m., well after midnight, and most of the audience was half asleep.

While Creedence Clearwater Revival burned bright, it also burned out quickly. There was tension between the members from the beginning, especially between John Fogerty and everyone else. As the singer and songwriter, he had the most creative control. After their debut album and the release of the single “Susie Q,” Fogerty told the other members that he wanted to be the only singer and songwriter in the band; Tom Fogerty, Cook and Clifford, on the other hand, wanted more of a say. The fact that Fogerty was the youngest member may have added to the tension. As Grunge.com put it, the band was “a ticking time bomb.”

Tom Fogerty was the first to leave the group. He left only a short time after the band had been named the world’s top vocal group by NME.

The now three-member band went back to the studio and recorded the album “Mardi Gras,” which was released in 1972. Unfortunately, it was poorly regarded and a step down from their usually excellent discography. “Sweet Hitch-Hiker,” written and sung by John Fogerty, was the album’s saving grace. It managed to get 12th place on the Billboard charts. “Mardis Gras” was the band’s last album. They announced their breakup in October 1972.

After the split, John Fogerty wasn’t allowed to perform any of his old songs. This was because of a deal he signed with Fantasy Records. Fogerty also fought many lawsuits. The most famous one occurred when Saul Zaentz and Fantasy Inc. took him to court for copyright infringement because of the similarity between his song “The Old Man Down the Road” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Run Through the Jungle.” Notably, this was the first time an artist had been sued for self-plagiarism.

Creedence Clearwater Revival ultimately never reunited. With the band member’s unresolved tensions and messy breakup, it is unlikely they will. Even if things were resolved, however, Tom Fogerty’s untimely death from HIV/AIDS means that the band can never truly come back together.

Despite this, the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival is still heard on the radio and in the media today. The group is a staple of classic rock. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Their most famous song is probably “Fortunate Son,” in part due to its association with the Vietnam War. The song was used in “Forrest Gump” as the titular character arrives in Vietnam. “Fortunate Son” wasn’t written to be an anti-war song, but it was made to protest the draft – particularly, its inequality. Those who had money or power were able to get deferments, hence the lyrics referring to the sons of senators, millionaires and military officials.

Unfortunately, “Fortunate Son” has often been misconstrued as a patriotic anthem, putting it in league with other songs such as Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” This can be seen in instances such as Wrangler playing the song in their 2002 advertisement for blue jeans and Donald Trump using it at one of his rallies.

Other famous songs include “Bad Moon Rising,” “Run Through the Jungle,” and “Up Around the Bend.” With its cheerful tune and dissonant lyrics, “Bad Moon Rising” has been used in the Season 1 finale of “Supernatural” and in “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” among other shows and movies. “Run Through the Jungle” was fittingly used in the trailer for “Jungle Cruise” as well as “The Big Lebowski.” Finally, “Up Around the Bend” most recently appeared in part two of Season 4 of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”

So, in spite of the band’s seemingly inevitable breakup, Creedence Clearwater Revival was a very successful band. While their name may not be as well-known as Led Zeppelin or The Beatles, most everyone has heard at least one of their songs somewhere. The music produced by Creedence Clearwater Revival has earned its place in popular culture.

Writer Profile

Melissa Wade

Northern Arizona University
English

Melissa Wade is a student at Northern Arizona University. She is majoring in English and minoring in studio art.

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