John Fogerty, the leader behind Creedence Clearwater Revival, has spent a lot of his career angry. He’s been angry at record labels, angry at publishing deals that made him feel trapped, and annoyed at ex-bandmates. But that is ancient history now.
Fogerty is enjoying another resurgence, and this is a truly positive one. He is touring during the summer of Woodstock’s 50th-year anniversary, especially memorable since Creedence was the first major act to commit to Woodstock.
“Basically, whoever called me about that called pretty late in the day — it was either June or even July [the festival was mid-August] — and he said, ‘John, will you come to Woodstock? Will you bring Creedence?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ I had heard about this peace, love, and music festival, but I didn’t realize we were the first. And then all the other bands fell into place after they realized that Creedence was coming. There’s even a sign in the museum up there that says that.”
Fogerty, who is blessed with a snappy wit as well as a knack for writing rock gems like “Proud Mary,” “Born on the Bayou,” and “Fortunate Son,” adds, “When you mentioned my resurgence, I wanted to joke and say, ‘I’ve been sitting in my closet waiting for the day Woodstock is going to come back, and I’ve been getting ready for 50 years!’ ”
He’s kidding, but the “50” takes on added significance because Fogerty named his new tour “My 50-Year Trip.” It is a rocking reprise of his own songs (both with Creedence and solo), together with tunes reflecting his 1960s beginnings such as The Who’s “My Generation,” John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” and Sly & the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music.”
He is also touring with his sons Tyler and Shane in his band, which he describes as an “unbelievable” feeling. Tyler sings lead on “My Generation,” and Fogerty notes, “When he sings it, he means his generation. But I’m standing right next to him with his brother, and it’s like we have the three of us dudes wailing about generations from different times.”
In effect, Fogerty is celebrating the creative peak of the late-’60s, not just his own music. “Yes, that was the idea. It’s inclusive of other things that were going on at the time,” he adds prior to shows at the new Beach Road Weekend festival Saturday on Martha’s Vineyard and the Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion on Tuesday.
Some highlights from our conversation:
Q. Did you know that Kurt Cobain of Nirvana was once in a Creedence Clearwater cover band?
A. I’ve only heard quite recently that Kurt was a Creedence freak and liking my songs. It’s a high endorsement.
Q. Little Richard was one of your big influences. You did his hit “Good Golly Miss Molly” on an early Creedence album.
A. Yes, there was Little Richard of course, and Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Hank Williams, and Lefty Frizzell. And certainly some of the gospel groups. I tended to like the people who could scream in a musical way — like Wilson Pickett. What a voice!
Q. Going back to 1969, I was surprised to see that CCR released three albums in that one year, which would be unheard of today. You were a real hit machine. Were you writing all the time?
A. Yes, it was unusual. In fact, I took a little bit of resistance from my band for working so hard. But when we had our first hit, “Susie Q” [first recorded by Dale Hawkins in 1957], I immediately identified that as a novelty and felt we might be doomed to be a one-hit wonder, so that was the motivation.
Q. Then you came up with “Proud Mary.”
A. That song was by far, way-up-in-the-clouds better than anything I had done before. And I recognized it right away. It was like, “What happened to me?”
Q. What did you think of Tina Turner’s version of the song? Did you fall off your chair?
A. Yes! I was driving in the car and it came on the radio, and I was just knocked out.
Q. You wrote so much about the South, from “Proud Mary” to “Born on the Bayou” and many others. Yet you guys were from the San Francisco Bay area. Why the fascination with the South?
A. I don’t have a real explanation for it. It’s like way back in English class they tell you to “write what you know rather than what you don’t know.” And that’s exactly what I did. It seemed like the most personal thing I knew, the thing I was most comfortable with.
Q. And you had never been to the South, right?
A. At that time, I hadn’t. Looking back, I told myself that maybe it’s reincarnation, maybe I had done this in a different life. I was writing things almost unconsciously.
Q. And what about “Fortunate Son”? That’s one of the all-time best protest songs about the Vietnam War.
A. Well, the song was on my mind before September 1969 when I wrote the real lyrics for it. Richard Nixon was already the president, the Vietnam War was raging, and you could see Nixon lying to us. And there was the phenomenon of the senators — that’s why I say “senator’s son” in the song, they were the kind of high-falutin’ folks who were keeping their kids out of the war. They would go into Congress and vote for the war to commit you and me, but secretly they’re getting their own kid to avoid it. And that really pissed me off. I wrote it in 20 minutes. It was by far the quickest song I ever wrote.
Q. For years after Creedence broke up, you stopped doing CCR tunes because you were stuck in publishing hassles and didn’t want anyone else to profit from them. But I heard Bob Dylan played a role in persuading you to do them again.
A. Yes, we were standing on the stage at the Palomino in LA, and Dylan was up there and George Harrison was up there. We had all gone to see Taj Mahal and somehow we ended up onstage singing “Twist and Shout.” And I think George did “Honey Don’t” and Dylan did a song. And somebody said, “John, do ‘Proud Mary.’ ” And the first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Aw, I don’t do those songs.” Then Dylan literally turned to me and said, “John, if you don’t do ‘Proud Mary,’ everybody is going to think it’s a Tina Turner song.” And with Bob Dylan telling you this, it was irrefutable. So we did it!
Q. You’ve also said things turned around for you when you met your second wife, Julie, and started your new family.
A. Yes, I was able to see life again through the lens of looking forward to things, and to the idea of wonderment and creation and discovery. And of course, when you have children, especially small children, that whole vibe is so magical to live through. The whole world is brand new.
Q. It’s great that you’re still out on the road doing this. It’s not a farewell tour, is it?
A. No, not at all. I’m just having a lot of fun, especially playing with my kids. Life is good.
At Beach Road Weekend, Vineyard Haven, Aug. 10. Tickets from $75 (single-day pass). www.beachroadweekend.com. At Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion, Boston, Aug. 13, 7:30 p.m. Tickets from $49.50. www.ticketmaster.com
Interview was edited and condensed. Steve Morse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.