From Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 album Bayou Country to last week’s release of Wrote a Song For Everyone, John Fogerty has been one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll songwriters in history, leading one of the most influential American rock bands we’ve been able to call our own. Here, we countdown Fogerty’s 10 best songs for CCR.
To begin our list, we start at a place that Fogerty himself hopes never to go. “A guy is stuck in a place where people really don’t appreciate him,” the songwriter says on his website. “Since I was at the beginning of a good career, I was hoping that that wouldn’t happen to me.” Forty-four years later after it was recorded in 1969 as a B-Side to “Born on the Bayou,” it’s safe to say he escaped that fate.
That guitar intro—a whiny and screeching, now-iconic riff. Then those claps that breakdown into the bridge. And, of course, that fantastic scene in Remember the Titans.
This is a track that begs to be listened to on vinyl, or at least with headphones. There’s so much guitar going on that gets missed on mp3 or compact disc. In the solo, there are at least four guitars battling for your attention as Fogerty runs through a quick day down at Green River in three verses; no chorus. A simple masterpiece.
Ask a teenager in 1970 why he wants to play rock n’ roll music and he’ll sit you down and drop the needle on this song. And when he does, you better hold on tight because this is two minutes of doo-wop rock where Fogerty channels his inner Little Richard.
Another staple in Fogerty’s discography and one of many songs where he sings about the weather. In this case, lightning and earthquakes shake the ground and hurricanes flood the rivers.
Written as an ode to one of CCR’s biggest influences, the Bakersfield Sound, this song still gets played every weekend at every honky-tonk bar in the country. That slide guitar and the subtle breakdown are highlights of a tune filled with eccentricity and pure musicianship. (For another explanation of why this one’s on the list, see: The Big Lebowski)
Here, Fogerty takes us on another trip to a river, but this time we’re rollin’. This hopeful traveling tune moves its setting all across the country where, if you’ve got no money, “people on the river are happy to give.” It’s been covered famously by Tina Turner, Solomon Burke and helped out Bruce Springsteen when he and his band used to play juke joints in Asbury Park. “[There were] five 50-minute sets a night and rarely a night without a fight,” The Boss told the crowd at CCR’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction. “But into New Jersey came the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival and for three minutes and seven seconds of ‘Proud Mary,’ a very strained brotherhood would actually fill the room. It was simply a great song that everybody liked and it literally saved our asses on many occasions.”
On 1969’s Bayou Country we get to hear Fogerty get political in a very subtle way. It happens in a conversation with his father when he was a little boy; his dad tells him not to “let the man get you do what he done to me.” It’s always been the band’s signature song and started that movement of “swamp rock” later picked up by groups like The Band.
The only real ballad we managed to fit on the list (sorry “Who’ll Stop The Rain?”) is one of our absolute favorites from CCR. Arguably Fogerty’s most poetic song, it questions life, death and the idea of eternity. Out of all the uncertainties in life, this song will always be relevant, significant and important. Forever.
It’s impossible to get a proper education on the Vietnam War without listening to this iconic and subversive song. The opening lick over the quick bass/snare drum combo is instantly recognizable. The music itself is simple, as most of Fogerty’s tunes are. But the special thing about this song is that it’s the most direct and rebellious song he’s ever penned. It’s “Born in the U.S.A.” without the irony and misinterpretation. Fogerty goes back and forth from point-of-views—from the millionaire’s son to the senator’s son to the folks born to wave the red, white and blue. It’s not a cry for help but a cry for ownership and pride. Fogerty gave the people a voice so unique and honest that you couldn’t ignore it.