Healing Old Hostilities: John Fogerty's 'Revival' After Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty went on to a long and successful solo career — marred by 35 years of legal battles with his record label. It seems they've patched up their differences: Hear an interview with Fogerty about his new album.

Healing Old Hostilities: John Fogerty's 'Revival'

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You've heard this one before. Rock 'n' Roll kid signs contract with creepy record producer. Creepy record producer bilks kid out of all royalties. Kid sues record label. Record label wins.

But how's this for a new ending. Thirty-five years later, kid, now a rock 'n' roll icon, returns to the label that almost ruined him.

That's the story of John Fogerty. He was the unmistakable voice of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

(Soundbite of song, "Proud Mary")

Mr. JOHN FOGERTY (Singer, Creedence Clearwater Revival): (Singing) Big wheel keep on turning. Proud Mary keep on burning. Rolling, rolling…

SEABROOK: That's "Proud Mary," one of a string of giant hits in the '60s and '70s written and sung by John Fogerty.

Now, every time you hear that on the radio, it's not Fogerty but his label, Fantasy Records, which makes the money. Despite the fact that Fogerty and Fantasy Records where in and out of the courts trading lawsuits for years, they're now reunited with the release of a new Fogerty CD called "Revival."

(Soundbite of song, "Don't You Wish It Was True")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) I dreamed I walked in heaven just the other night. There was so much beauty, so much light. Don't you wish it was true? Don't you wish it was true?

SEABROOK: John Fogerty joins us from NPR's New York studios. Welcome.

Mr. FOGERTY: Hello. Thank you.

SEABROOK: It's a pleasure to have you here. And let me start off by asking how did you get back together with Fantasy Records?

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, the real truth here is that the old owners sold the company, I think, about three years ago…


Mr. FOGERTY: …to some delightful new people, most notably Norman Lear. Therefore, the old people that really, you know, made my life pretty miserable for a long time have no interest at all.

SEABROOK: How was it that you weren't paid artist royalty? Is that something that the record company can choose not to pay you if you, as it sounds like you might have done when you were a kid, to kind of signed a bad contract?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FOGERTY: To call it bad is a euphemism. It was so one sided and so unbelievably harsh. Really, in the beginning, we gave the contract to our bass player's dad, who is a lawyer. He was part of a big law firm in Oakland that they represented the Oakland Raiders among their clients. Or at least that was the band's idea. We gave it to Stu and said, you know, have your dad look at this contract.

And as the years have gone by, I'm not quite sure what really happened. Though all I know is a couple of weeks later, we were loading up the old van, trying to, you know, on our way to some gig somewhere. And we all said, hey, Stu, what did your dad about that contract? And Stu said something like, he said fine. And we said, oh, what do you mean fine? Well, he said it's okay to sign, you know. And looking back, perhaps, Stu never showed it to his dad. Maybe he just sort of - I really don't know the real truth. All I know is that I've really paid dearly for that indiscretion.

SEABROOK: This label actually, I mean, to give people some perspective. Your label actually sued you once for sounding like John Fogerty. Didn't it?

Mr. FOGERTY: Correct. Yeah.

SEABROOK: Tell me about that case quickly.

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, when I finally got enough fortitude together to make a new record, the record was "Centerfield" and the lead track on "Centerfield" was a song called "Old Man Down the Road," which certainly from the opening guitar lick, it had a spooky, swampy sound, you know, a much like what I sounded like when I was in Creedence Clearwater.

(Soundbite of song, "Old Man Down the Road")

Mr. FOGERTY: Apparently, the bass player of my old band went down to Fantasy Records with a copy of my new album "Centerfield" and played Saul Zaentz a few of the cuts and then…

SEABROOK: Saul Zaentz is the bad guy.

Mr. FOGERTY: Yeah. He's the guy owning Fantasy.

SEABROOK: The person you think is the bad guy.

Mr. FOGERTY: I - well, yes, allegedly a bad guy, if you will.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FOGERTY: Anyway, Stu played some of the cuts from my new album and he said, John is ripping off Creedence. You should sue him. So Saul did.

(Soundbite of song, "Run Through the Jungle")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) Whoa, thought it was a nightmare. Lo, it's all so true. They told me don't go walking slow. The devil's on the loose.

There came a point were I actually had to sing a little bit of both songs in court to the jury.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: You're kidding.

Mr. FOGERTY: You know. I mean, yeah. Looking back now, it is kind of funny. It's bizarre, I think, is what I'd say.

SEABROOK: Yeah. Yeah. I'm talking to John Fogerty. His new CD is called "Revival." Now, you wrote one of the most familiar protest songs for the Vietnam era with the song "Fortunate Son." Let's hear a little bit of that.

(Soundbite of song, "Fortunate Son")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) Some folks are born made to wave the flags. Ooh, they're red, white and blue. And when the band plays "Hail to the Chief," ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord.

It ain't me, it ain't me. I ain't no senator's son, son. It ain't me, it ain't me. I ain't fortunate one. No.

SEABROOK: Now, there are few songs on your new CD "Revival" that take on the war in Iraq and the current administration, the Bush administration. And I guess, that sort of has echoes from "Fortunate Son."

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, yeah. I mean, back in 1970, I was protesting a different war and a different president. But even the song "Fortunate Son" could have been written yesterday, actually…


Mr. FOGERTY: …it's amazing how this - and it's also sad how these things go away and then come around again.

(Soundbite of song, "I Can't Take It No More")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) I can't take it no more. I can't take it no more. I'm sick and tired of your dirty little war. I can't take it no more. You know you lied about the casualties. You know you lied about the WMDs. You know you lied about detainees all over this world.

Mr. FOGERTY: I don't really come off as a political pundit all the time, trying to write political songs. It seems to be, perhaps, what reviewers and critics like to focus on. But the way of doing business that this particular administration seems to be doing it is very upsetting to me.

I must say, seeing George night after night say something like, well, we must stay the course. We must stay the course. We must stay the course. I've heard these same things from another president in another time.

(Soundbite of song, "I Can't Take It No More")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) I bet you never saw the old school yard. I bet you never saw the National Guard. Your daddy wrote a check and there you are, another fortunate son. I can't take it no more.

SEABROOK: I thought you were supposed to mellow with age?

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, in many ways, I have. I've learned to be a little more patient. But I'm not patient about people dying.

SEABROOK: Another song in the album is called "Broken Down Cowboy." And you sing the lyrics: He's played every card he's got. Had a good hand but he messed it up. Do you feel like a sort of tragic figure in the music industry?

Mr. FOGERTY: If you could see the smile on my face right now…

(Sounbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: Oh, good.

Mr. FOGERTY: When my wife and I first met - my wife, Julie - it was about 20 years ago. At that point in time, I really was a mess. I was, you'd say a rock and roll casualty. And…

SEABROOK: Are we talking sex, drugs, rock and roll kind of thing?

Mr. FOGERTY: All of it. Sure.


Mr. FOGERTY: And she saw something in me and I thank God she did. I sure saw something in her from the - really, from the first moment we met, my life began to get better.

Eventually, there was so much love in my heart that all the bad stuff, all the bitterness just was sort of squeezed out. It was sort of forced out of me. "Broken Down Cowboy" became very much a personal song between myself and Julie. It was our story. But, you know, please remember. This was our story 20 years ago when we first met. I'm not that "Broken Down Cowboy" anymore. I'm a very happy guy.

(Soundbite of song, "Broken Down Cowboy")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) Oh, string you along. Singing you a lonesome song. Thought I'd windup alone again. If I was a gambling man, never would have let you play that pain with a broken down cowboy like me.

SEABROOK: You say you're happy again. You're happy now and you've actually - you produced a really fun album. It's really - it's light in places. It's got a lot of dynamic. But I wonder if you would think it was fair to say that it sounds somewhat like classic Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Mr. FOGERTY: Oh, my God. It better sound exactly like classic Creedence Clearwater Revival. I mean…

SEABROOK: After all this time and all the legal battles.

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, what happened was I had an album out three years ago called "Deja Vu." And the album itself was quite acoustic. I had gotten myself into finger style and flat pick and that sort of stuff. But it's a - well, John, you know, maybe the stuff was cool to you but your - maybe your fans didn't really come along with you. You know, maybe they're not all that thrilled about flat-picking or whatever. You know, I call them tangents. And I just kind of have this little conversation with myself to - so why don't you get yourself back into your own middle, your own center.

Now, you understand from some of the things you've talked to me about. When you get sued for sounding like yourself, you actually get a little paranoid. Basically, in the years after that lawsuit, I'd be in my little music room at various times doing a swamp rock, kind of Creedence sounding thing on the guitar, and up with pop a little gremlin on my shoulder going, no, no, no, no. You can't sound like that. I'm going to sue you. And it would absolutely kill my inspiration. I mean it was like that - it was over for that day. I only get really P.O. at times.

Anyway, one day this year, I was in the my music room and I'm kind of swamping out on a cool guitar and getting kind of that Creedency vibe going.


Mr. FOGERTY: And I literally said in my mind, wow, Creedence song, and sure enough, up pops the little gremlin and he goes, no, no, no. And I look over and I said, you go away. Get the (unintelligible) out of my room. Get out of my life. I don't want you here anymore. I'm going to do what I'm going to do. And just go away. Never come back.

SEABROOK: John Fogerty's new CDS on Fantasy Records is called "Revival." He joined from NPR studios in New York. John Fogerty, thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, thank you. It's great to be here.

(Soundbite of song, "Creedence Song")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) But night after night, people coming up to this band. And say you can't go wrong if you play a little bit of that Creedence song.

SEABROOK: More new songs from John Fogerty at our Web site, npr.org/music.

And now, this parting words for you from another great American musician and lyricist, George Gershwin. He said true music must repeat the thought and inspirations of the people and the time. My people are Americans. My time is today.

(Soundbite of song, "Creedence Song")

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) Creedence song. Ah do do. Ah do do. Ah do do. Yeah. But daddy took a shot of liquor behind his tower.

SEABROOK: And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

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