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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

In the '60s, John Fogerty was the lead singer and creative force behind Creedence Clearwater Revival.

(Soundbite of "Up Around The Bend")

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL: (Singing) Come on the risin' wind, we're goin' up around the bend. Ooh.

MONTAGNE: Fogerty also had a successful solo career, but he lost the rights to his music in a contract dispute that lasted 35 years, a suit not settled until 2004. Now John Fogerty has done something he's never been able to do before, release an album of his greatest hits. Music journalist Ashley Kahn spoke with the songwriter about his new CD "The Long Road Home" and what it means to be reunited with his music.

(Soundbite of "Born On The Bayou")

ASHLEY KAHN reporting:

In 1968, Richard Nixon was running for president, The Beatles were going strong, and psychedelia in music, in fashion and in substances was the flavor of the day.

(Soundbite of "Born On The Bayou")

KAHN: Against this backdrop, Creedence Clearwater Revival arrived.

(Soundbite of "Born On The Bayou")

KAHN: At first, they fit into the sound of the day, lots of reverb and trippy guitar solos. But soon their songs developed a no-frills rock 'n' roll edge.

(Soundbite of "Born On The Bayou")

Mr. JOHN FOGERTY: (Singing) When I was just a little boy, standing to my daddy's knee, my papa said, `Son, don't let the man get you and do what he done to me.'

KAHN: John Fogerty is one of the four founding members of Creedence, as the band became known to its fans.

Mr. FOGERTY: There were many parts of the so-called underground scene that I found too laid-back, you know, to say it in a diplomatic way.

KAHN: Fogerty was also the group's songwriter and lead singer, drawing inspiration from soul, country and a lot of Southern blues, and turning his band into a commercial juggernaut. Between 1968 and '71, Creedence notched five top-10 albums and 10 top-40 songs, outselling even The Beatles in 1970.

Mr. FOGERTY: I had dreamed my whole life about a career in music, and when the door finally opened, I went running through. I can remember thinking in terms of, `Well, The Beatles are number one. That's cool. It doesn't mean that number two will be all that bad.'

(Soundbite of "Proud Mary")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) Big wheel, keep on turnin'. Proud Mary, keep on burnin'. Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river.

KAHN: In 1971, Creedence came to a crashing halt. Friction between the band's members was only part of the story, as lawsuits with the group's record company soon revealed.

Mr. FOGERTY: Creedence Clearwater Revival was on top of the world, and so was Fantasy Records, but the Creedence music that was, let's say, paying all their bills was really treated like it was some sort of trash liner or something, you know.

KAHN: Fogerty found himself struggling to deal with the contract he had signed when he was only 18. To properly explain all the legal points would require--in fact, did require--a legion of lawyers.

(Soundbite of "Who'll Stop The Rain")

KAHN: For Fogerty, one of the stickiest issues was who controlled his songs and how they could be used.

Mr. FOGERTY: Folks will remember "Forrest Gump" and that was a great movie, but they don't remember all the really poor movies that Fantasy Records stuck Creedence music into: car commercials, tire commercials. I'm remembering a paint thinner ad at one point, the song "Who'll Stop The Rain." Oh, boy. That's clever, isn't it?

(Soundbite of "Who'll Stop The Rain")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain?

KAHN: Another notorious lawsuit involved Fogerty's comeback solo album in 1985.

Mr. FOGERTY: It is weird. Without belaboring all of it, I'll just say I got sued for sounding like myself.

(Soundbite of "The Old Man Down The Road")

Mr. FOGERTY: The old record company, Fantasy Records, sued me for having a new song called "The Old Man Down The Road," which they contended sounded like an old song which Fantasy owned, and that old song was called "Run Through The Jungle."

(Soundbite of "The Old Man Down The Road")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) You got to hidey-hidey-hide. The old man is down the road.

(Soundbite of "Run Through The Jungle")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) Better run through the jungle. Better run through the jungle. Whoa, don't look back and see.

KAHN: For more than three decades, hardly a year went by when Fogerty and Fantasy were not locked in some legal tussle. Fantasy Records declined to comment for this story, but just last year the label was sold, and the clouds parted.

Mr. FOGERTY: What has turned out now, with Fantasy being under new ownership, is something quite wonderful, quite delightful even.

KAHN: Fantasy Records is now owned by the Concord Music Group. That's a fact that has made possible for the first time a collection of Creedence songs that includes many of Fogerty's hits as a solo artist.

(Soundbite of "Center Field")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) Put me in, Coach. I'm ready to play today. Look at me. Gotta be center field. Yeah.

Now I'm actually connected, in a way that I have not been in 35 years or so, to my own songs and my own recordings. It's the greatest feeling you can imagine.

(Soundbite of "Lookin' Out My Back Door")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) Just got home from Illinois...

KAHN: Lawsuits in the music business are as common as love songs, but what made the Creedence struggle so different was that it refused to end, even while their music continued to influence generations of musicians who were adding to the legacy of Americana and rock music.

(Soundbite of "Lookin' Out My Back Door")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) Imagination sets in. Pretty soon I'm singing, doo, doo, doo, lookin' out my back door.

MONTAGNE: Ashley Kahn is a regular contributor to MORNING EDITION and author of the book "Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece." John Fogerty's new CD, "The Long Road Home," has just been released.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP (Host): And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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