Creedence Clearwater Revisited

In his speech inducting Creedence Clearwater Revival into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen got to the heart of what makes the band so special. Their music was “severe; precise; lyrically spare and beautiful,” he said. Written in “an American tradition,” their songs seemed to be written for “waylaid Tom Sawyers and Huck Finns.” He recalled how, when starting out himself, he would often play their hits in a local bar, and watch the songs establish a brief and beautiful camaraderie among the diverse patrons: “rough kids just out of high school, who hadn’t been snatched up by the draft yet; truck drivers heading home south through the Jersey pines … and a mixture of college and working girls, women with bouffant hairdos, and a small but steady hippie contingent.” They all loved CCR.

In fact, there was a brief moment when it looked like Creedence might eclipse the Beatles. The four boys from California’s Bay Area—lead singer John Fogerty, his brother Tom on rhythm guitar, and their junior high school classmates Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford on bass and drums, respectively—had played together since 1958. But they hit gold a decade later with songs such as “Suzie Q,” “Proud Mary” and “Green River,” and were soon performing before immense crowds at mega-concerts, including Woodstock. Their records outsold the Beatles, who broke up just four days before Creedence took the stage at London’s Royal Albert Hall on April 14, 1970, as part of their first European tour.

Then it all disappeared. Tom quit in 1971, and simmering anger between the remaining members made collaboration impossible. A year later, their final album earned a damning review from Rolling Stone’s Jon Landau, who called it “the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band.” Six months after that, CCR was kaput. John Fogerty refused even to be in the same studio with his former collaborators—a feud that continues to this day. 

Creedence did virtually no merchandizing, and its amateurish marketing was overseen almost entirely by John. As a consequence, almost nothing remains of them except the music. That’s why the simultaneous release of John Lingan’s book A Song for Everyone: The Story of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Netflix’s rockumentary Travelin’ Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at Albert Hall are so welcome. Together they help recapture the magic of the biggest rock group ever to vanish into thin air.

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Comments (37)
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  • “Guess what! I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more Tim Sandefur!”

  • Very, very perceptive analysis. This boomer was in college during that time, and everything you say (about the relationship between music and politics, and what was appealing about CCR) rings true.
    One line I have long remembered, that helped set me up in my political philosophy: "Five-year plans and New Deals/Wrapped in golden chains."

  • I grew up listening to oldies and classic rock and CCR was my favorite. In high school, it was all punk and grunge. I’d pick my moments, and somewhere between a track by The Minutemen and another by Sonic Youth, I’d turn up all 8+ minutes of Susie Q to level 10. And I made lots of other people fans of CCR. Great band.

  • Geee....nothing left besides their music! And what great music. I remember walking from my apartment to the UC Davis campus the autumn of 1969 and hearing Credence playing almost all the way. I even wrote a letter to my girl-friend about it. Ultimately it's the music and their music is a fundamental part of my life.

  • I learned something today! Great read. Thanks!

  • The gross and entirely wrong popular, Hollywood summaries of the 60s and the Vietnam War were mostly written by the leftwingnuts, not real people. The stereotyped drug crazed baby killers vs. the angelic lovey dovey hippies of Haight Ashbury, and the reactionary rednecks vs. the peace loving long hairs was just as wrong then, as a representative slice of America, as is today's preferred leftwingnut lies about innocent peace loving Black Lives Matter protesters vs. fascists being representative of America in this age.

    So it is not surprising to see such ignorant prejudice coloring an analysis of Creedence Clearwater Revival that the reviewer here at The Dispatch wisely and thankfully exposed.

    Despite all that Hollywood and the music scene has mis-portrayed over the decades, most of the guys (and a few gals) who served in Vietnam and in the military during the Vietnam War era were not drug crazed baby killers, drafted and serving only at gunpoint. Two thirds of all who served were volunteers - a far higher proportion of volunteers than from the supposedly purer more patriotic "Greatest Generation" of WW Two myth, the majority of whom were drafted with a great deal of resentment. Most Vietnam era military members felt a strong need to do their duty for their country and their families, and when the war was over, just tried to get back to real life and raising families. To the extent most were angry, it was at the incompetence of the political and military leaders who effed up that war.

    While the leftwingnut agitators and marchers of the 60s were largely composed of radical violent thugs, many of them communists and their sympathizers who hated everything that is American - not peace loving, all loving saints with flowers in their hair.

    1. As an (albeit somewhat young) member of the anti-war left, I disagree with your characterization of us as radical, violent, communist thugs. While some obviously were, most of us were mad at the same things the soldiers were : as you put it, the political and military leaders who lied, and effed it up. Perhaps we agree that too many names are needlessly on that wall.

  • I just saw Fogerty in concert for the first time last month. I was talking to someone and we agreed that CCR, with its mix of country and soul, was the logical heir of the Sun Records tradition.

  • Excellent piece, thank you!

  • This was excellent! 👏

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