Over the last decade there's been a massive change in John Fogerty, and for anyone who ever loved the man's music it's been a heartening one.
From the bitter dissolution of his band Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1972 to the lawsuit filed against him in the '80s for "plagiarizing" his own song Run Through the Jungle, Fogerty had little reason to celebrate his own back catalogue. His old label, Fantasy Records, had been given the rights to his songs in the deal that freed him to record with Asylum in 1985, and for a time he found himself in the unfathomable position of having to pay royalties to play his own music.
This ended in 2004 with the sale of Fantasy to Concord Records; the new owners immediately looked at restoring his royalty rights, but even before that Fogerty had resolved to go back to playing CCR songs.
Relations with ex-band mates remained terrible, and he wasn't speaking with his brother (and ex-CCR rhythm guitarist) Tom Fogerty when he died in 1990.
So what happened to make him change his mind?
"My family," the 67-year-old says from California, taking a break from the rehearsals that will take him on tour to Canada this week. "I healed because of being with my wife and family. It's a great thing; one day you wake up and you're not worrying about all of those things that were so dark and bothersome. Then one day an interviewer asked me a quite innocent question about something to do with a reunion and I naively answered back. I didn't have a knee-jerk reaction like I always had. I said, 'Yeah, y'know what, that would probably be all right.'"
Fogerty's realization that he didn't need to carry so much anger caused something of a stir in the press.
Everyone likes a happy ending, and if we never quite got that with Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm of the Band, at least we've been assured of some kind of reconciliation. To see CCR back together again, even down one member, would have been a lovely thing, except that the other ex-members (bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford), who still tour as Creedence Clearwater Revisited, weren't quite so fired up on the notion.
"That part got printed and the first thing I heard was the other guys reacting 'Oh no, it's too late, blah, blah blah.' A month after that someone asked me about it and I said, 'I guess there's not gonna be a reunion.' It was funny to me. It wasn't like I was holding out hope, I just said something and the other guys, well, it was like I threw the cat into the swimming pool."
Fogerty shrugs off the contretemps with a certain amount of good humour, and for good reason. These were his songs, and his voice; you don't need to pick a side in this (now) one-way feud to make a decision on which one you'd go to see if they came to town. Cook and Clifford were a tight rhythm section that could choogle with the best of them, but it's Fogerty's voice and guitar you want to hear.
The man sounds energized now, getting kicks out of remembering old Drifters songs, discussing the country music that he likes to make with the Blue Ridge Rangers, trading stories about warehouse jobs. The wisdom he's picked up after so many years with a bitterness he couldn't possibly contain has mellowed him, and now Fogerty is simply thankful.
"I've had some different paths through this life, and I'm at the point where I just think it's wonderful that I get to play music and that people still want to see me perform," he says.
"I'm writing songs and playing guitar licks, and I'm glad that I'm in a line of work that allows me to do this at 67. Unlike if I was a tennis player, in which it would all be over at 30 or something."
-- Edmonton Journal
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