John Fogerty Making Good on Vow to Himself
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Guitarist John Fogerty first realized he was a failure about a decade ago.
Sure, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 for his work as the singer/songwriter with Creedence Clearwater Revival, one of the great American bands to emerge in the late 1960s.
But when Creedence fell apart in 1972 after a string of top 10 hits like “Proud Mary” and “Born on the Bayou,” he spent his time putting out albums he hopes people have forgotten, feuding with his former bandmates (including late brother Tom) and in endless litigation with the boss of his old label.
Disappointing fans and critics was one thing, disappointing himself was something else. It was about 10 years ago when he recalled a vow he had made to himself as a youngster.
“I (had) promised myself I was going to be one of the greats, one of the really good guitar players, like Chet Atkins, when I was a kid,” he recalled in a recent interview.
“When I was about 48 years old, I realized I wasn’t … The revelation to myself was, ‘John, you were supposed to be really good, and you’re not.’ That was a shock to actually face it down and admit it.”
Slightly angry with himself for wasting so many years, he got busy. The latest step in the rehabilitation process is “Deja Vu (All Over Again)” (Geffen Records), which comes out in the United States on Sept. 21. It is a belated follow-up to 1997’s “Blue Moon Swamp,” for which he won his first Grammy Award.
Now happily remarried with four children and building a new house in suburban Los Angeles, Fogerty, 59, still doesn’t feel totally satisfied professionally. But he believes he’s getting there through dedication and practice.
CATCHING UP WITH HEROES
“It’s a very high level, and it’s taken a long, long time, and I’m just about getting into the same room — I’m not sitting in the chair yet — but I’m getting into the same room with some of the people I really admire. And it’s taken over 10 years. It’s mind-boggling how long that takes,” Fogerty said about his guitar-playing skills.
Some of those “other people,” in addition to Nashville icon Atkins, include former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler, who appears on the new album, dobro player Jerry Douglas and bluegrass picker Ricky Skaggs.
He had also dreamed as a youngster of being a businessman like Gene Autry, the singing cowboy who also owned radio stations and a baseball team. But, after signing away his Creedence copyrights as part of an onerous deal with Fantasy Records, he realized business was not his strong suit.
Ensuing litigation with Fantasy boss Saul Zaentz lasted for decades. Zaentz used his label profits to make even more money as the producer of best-picture Oscar-winners “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Amadeus” and “The English Patient.”
Fogerty once immortalized Zaentz in a song called “Zanz Kant Danz,” while Zaentz countered with a plagiarism lawsuit, claiming that Fogerty’s solo song “The Old Man Down the Road” ripped off the Creedence hit “Run Through the Jungle.” The litigation went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Fogerty says he is now at peace and even enjoyed one of the recent “Lord of the Rings” films despite the fact that Zaentz owns the movie rights to the underlying J.R.R. Tolkien books.
“Years and years ago, there was a really bad Lord of the Rings (cartoon), and I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, I paid for that!’
“But the one thing that is way more precious than money in our world is time, and I probably have a lot more time than he does,” Fogerty said of the 83-year-old Zaentz.
CELL PHONE FOE
On his new album, which took about 2-1/2 years to write and record, Fogerty deals with more pressing issues, such as the 2001 birth of daughter Kelsy (“I Will Walk With You”), and crazy women (“She’s Got Baggage”).
Two songs touch on socio-political themes: the anti-war title track “Deja Vu (All Over Again), and “Nobody’s Here Anymore,” which sounds like a Dire Straits song in part because Knopfler is playing on it. The latter tune deals with the disconnect in society. Fogerty partly blames it on his pet peeve, cell phones, but managed to restrain himself when both his wife’s and the interviewer’s phones rang during the interview.
That the man who wrote the searing 1969 anti-war anthem and Creedence hit “Fortunate Son” should have something to say about current hostilities in Iraq and elsewhere is not surprising. What seems odd is the restraint and resignation throughout “Deja Vu,” which focuses on the devastation that war brings to families.
“I can get political and be all angry. That’s fine,” he said. “I thought that talking about the war and the emotion about what war does to people was enough in this case. That’s my protest.”
Fogerty will take a break from driving his kids to school when he hits the road in October with Bruce Springsteen for a handful of dates on the anti-President Bush “Vote for Change” tour, though he hopes the music will take precedence over politics. He suffered, he said, through enough politically themed concerts during the Vietnam era to be wary of a deja vu feeling.
John Fogerty Making Good on Vow to Himself