Creedence Clearwater Revival released seven studio albums between 1968 and 1972 which produced nine top 10 radio hits and after the “Beatles broke up in 1970 they became the most famous band in the world. The roots of CCR sprouted in 1959 when three 14-year-old school friends formed an instrumental band called the “Blue Velvets.” The trio was comprised of lead guitarist John Fogerty, bass player Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford. John’s 18-year-old brother Tom was a singer who would sometimes use the trio for his backup band until 1963 when he permanently joined them. They played all the cities in Central and Northern California and unsuccessfully released 45rpm singles.
They signed a record deal as the “Golliwogs” with “Fantasy Records” and then in 1966 John and Doug were drafted into the army. After they were discharged the band changed its name to “Creedence Clearwater Revival” and they released their first eponymous album in early 1968.
Roles in the band by then were John playing lead guitar, singing lead and writing the songs, Tom played rhythm guitar and sang backup with Stu and Doug on bass, drums also singing backup. After pioneering psychedelic swamp blues rock and having top 40 radio hits continually for four years they broke up in 1972. The breakup was because of irreconcilable differences between band members that were exacerbated by John’s feud with “Fantasy Records” executive Saul Zaentz. He claimed that Zaentz failed to keep his promise to write a new contract when the band became famous which would allow them to share a larger percentage of the royalties.
Here are Blues Rock Review’s Top 10 Creedence Clearwater Revival Songs. How does our list compare with yours? Let us know.
By the time that Green River, the third album by “CCR” was released, “Lodi” was viewed out of their rear view mirror. The song’s lyrics are a self explanatory hard luck story about a struggling musician finding himself stranded in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Inspiration for the song came from a number of places including trips that John was on with his father in Central California as well as an unpleasant camping trip at Lodi Lake. Drummer Doug Clifford said that in the band’s early days they played in the farming town of Lodi where a dozen drunk men kept telling them to “turn it down.”
“Suzy-Q” was the first “Creedence Clearwater Revival” song that I ever heard in the Fall of 1968. It immediately caught my attention and soon afterwards I purchased their eponymous album and then attended one of their concerts a year and a half later. The song is a cover of Dale Hawkins’ 1956 co-authored composition that was released as a single in 1958 by “Chess Records.” Fogerty chose to shape a song that he didn’t write to “define CCR’s distinct character” because he said that he was less self-conscious during the process. The song had been part of their on stage repertoire from the beginning and became their first single and only song to reach the top 40 that wasn’t written or co-written by Fogerty.
8. “Green River”
Green River is the title song of CCR’s second 1969 album released just before the “Woodstock” festival where they performed four of the songs from it including “Green River.” According to John Fogerty it was about a place where his family went on yearly vacations until he was 10 years old. It was located in Northern California and the cabin that they stayed in was owned by one of Buffalo Bill Cody’s descendents. The actual title of the song was taken from a popular soda fountain drink at the time called a phosphate using “Green River” syrup which was lime flavored.
7. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
John Fogerty was such a prolific songwriter that most of the material from their albums were original compositions. In the case of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” which appeared on Cosmo’s Factory in 1970, it was originally a landmark song in the history of ‘Motown Records. It was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong and was originally recorded by “Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.” It became a hit for “Gladys Knight and the Pips” in 1967 and then again for Marvin Gaye in 1968. Fogerty turned the lush arrangements from the three minute “Motown” recordings into an extended psychedelic rock jam that lasted over eleven minutes.
6. “Bad Moon Rising”
“Bad Moon Rising” was the A side of CCR’s #2 single from Green River in 1969. It was one of five of their songs that made it to the #2 position on the charts but they never had a #1 radio hit. The song hit the charts eight days after the Apollo 11 moon landing, which was timely but the song had nothing to do with space travel. Fogerty once explained that the lyrics were inspired by a film titled “The Devil and Daniel Webster” where a hurricane destroys a town.
5. “Have You Ever Seen the Rain”
Pendulum was their sixth album and the second one released by Creedence in 1970. It was the last one with Tom Fogerty as part of the band. The song itself was originally written as a result of the irreconcilable differences that caused the rift between the Fogerty brothers. The line that says, “have you ever seen the rain comin’ down on a sunny day?” was about how the band was imploding at the peak of its Commercial success. Ironically the other side of the 45rpm single that CCR released was “Hey Tonight” an up tempo song singing about success.
4. “Run Through the Jungle”
“Run Through the Jungle” was on Cosmo’s Factory from 1970. CCR became one of the bands that GI’s involved in the Vietnam War at that time listened to. The song lyrics related to the experiences of the soldiers slogging through the jungles of South East Asia during this time period. However, even though Fogerty was an army veteran, it wasn’t an anti war song and had nothing to do with Vietnam. It was a song about the excess proliferation of guns in America at the time. Ironically Fogerty fully supported the Second Amendment and was a hunter.
3. “Fortunate Son”
“Fortunate Son” is a war protest song from 1969’s Willie and the Poor Boys album. It was the third album that Creedence released that year while Nixon was president and the war in Vietnam was raging. The song railed against the unfairness of the system that exempted the rich and politically connected from having to serve in the military. Fogerty and drummer Doug Clifford both served in the army because of the draft that was in place at the time and were speaking from experience. Over the years the song has been misinterpreted both in advertising and politics much like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”
“I ain’t no senator’s son…
I ain’t no fortunate one, no”
2. “Proud Mary”
Originally when John Fogerty began writing “Proud Mary” it was about a maid for rich people taking a bus to and from work. Stu Cook came up with the idea for a riverboat when they were all watching the television show “Maverick” one night. Fogerty kept a notebook of song titles, key phrases and ideas and the day that he received his honorable discharge papers from the army he finished the song in a fit of joy since the war in Vietnam was escalating. The song peaked on the radio at #2 in 1969 and has been covered more than a 100 times over the decades.
1. “Who’ll Stop the Rain”
“Who’ll Stop the Rain” was a great song that was released as a B-side of “Travelin’ Band.” The subject of the song was the experience that the band had when they played at the “Woodstock” music festival in 1969. They followed the “Grateful Dead” in the wee hours of Sunday morning and woke the crowd up and revitalized it at the Witching hour. However, after dawn when the concert resumed in the early afternoon storm clouds loomed on the horizon which drenched over a quarter of a million people. The song was a prayer and a wish for a cessation of precipitation.