John Fogerty Talks New Creedence Clearwater Revival Documentary and Making Peace with His Past

·7 min read
creedence clearwater revival
creedence clearwater revival

Didi Zill Creedence Clearwater Revival

When Creedence Clearwater Revival took the stage at London's Royal Albert Hall on April 14, 1970, the rockers were at their peak.

Just two years after releasing their self-titled debut album — and two years out from when they'd eventually call it quits — CCR played a legendary 12-song set for the British crowd, drawing a 15-minute standing ovation for frontman John Fogerty and his bandmates, brother Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford.

Despite its success, a recording of the show sat not in the hands of fans, but in the record company's vault, long thought to be lost — until now. Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall, the live album, and an accompanying documentary concert film titled Travelin' Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall, will be released on Sept. 16 — and it's about time, says Fogerty.

"I'm so happy that the fans finally get to see this. It's been sitting, languishing, in a vault somewhere," the rocker, 77, tells PEOPLE. "I'd hear reports of people [seeing it], and it always surprised me, like, 'Wow, somebody must have made a copy.' It became very iconic, in the mythical sense. It took on a life of its own."

For Fogerty, reliving his past via the film was an emotional walk down memory lane, especially as he took in videos of his late brother Tom. Though the two were close during their time in CCR, the brothers' relationship soured ahead of Tom's death in 1990 amid disputes with their management and record company.

"You're watching footage of your brother who has passed away and you just wish that he could be alive and you could talk to him," Fogerty says. "It's just that… I don't know how to say it, that literal thing that you do in your mind and it almost seems real. And then of course the scene changes to something else and you realize you were just watching a film rather than watching the real person."

Fogerty founded Creedence in the late 1960s with classmates Clifford and Cook, and after Tom joined the fold on rhythm guitar, the group released their first album in 1968. With feet-stomping riffs straight out of the South, the California boys quickly made a name for themselves, scoring five top 10 singles and three top 10 albums in just one year.

RELATED: Jack Quaid Stars in Creedence Clearwater Revival's Video for 'Have You Ever Seen the Rain'

Hits like "Proud Mary," "Bad Moon Rising" and "Down on the Corner" showcased Fogerty's swamp rock-steeped songwriting skills, while politically minded anthems like "Fortunate Son" immortalized the discontent of the American spirit in the era of the Vietnam War.

Tom left CCR in 1971 and the remaining three members disbanded a year later amid internal strife. Though Fogerty later launched a successful solo career, a contentious few decades followed, including a falling out with his former bandmates over royalties and a descent into alcoholism. When CCR was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, he played not with Clifford and Cook, but with Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Robertson.

creedence clearwater revival
creedence clearwater revival

Ed Caraeff Creedence Clearwater Revival

Now, the musician says he's at peace with his past, and gives all of the credit to his wife Julie, whom he met in 1986 and married in 1991.

"I'm the luckiest man alive. I met my wife, Julie, and when you meet somebody and fall in love in this life, it really makes everything else seem incidental," Fogerty says. "And no matter how bad all the pains and things I went through had been, as I allowed the love to just grow and grow in my heart, there started to be a sense of awareness on my part."

He continues: "I just became very aware of the idea that what was really important in this life, at least for me, was to be in love and have met the person that most matters to you in this whole world, and that everything forward from that is going to be not only OK, it's going to be wonderful. I've kept that feeling alive ever since."

It was his wife's influence that also repaired Fogerty's relationship with his own songs. In the 1980s, amid conflict with his record company, the musician decided he would no longer perform any songs owned by Fantasy Records, a list that included all of his CCR classics, like "Proud Mary" and "Up Around the Bend."

John Fogerty performs for the 40th Anniversary of “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS
John Fogerty performs for the 40th Anniversary of “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS

Getty Images/Getty John Fogerty

Though the "Centerfield" singer says now it was an "unfortunate decision" to shelve the tracks for so long, he understands that he did it as a way of making it through the pain he felt.

"I certainly felt that I had been done wrong and cheated and lied to and all those other sorts of things, and at the center of all that was the music and the songs that I had created. But as time has gone on, there's another benefit for my having met Julie, and that was I decided I was going to start performing my songs again," he says. "I'm just really happy that my life turned out this way and I get to celebrate that music [now]."

Celebrating the music has long been Fogerty's desire. For years, that music provided a temperature check on American politics, with the rocker long considered one of the country's preeminent crafters of socially conscious music.

Though hits like "Fortunate Son" were written with the politics of the late 1960s in mind, the messaging still stands amid a polarized America — something Fogerty, while happy with the longevity of his work, finds disappointing.

Travelin' Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Album Hall
Travelin' Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Album Hall

Travelin' Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Album Hall Creedence Clearwater Revival

"Back in the day, even though young people were protesting against the Vietnam War and also about civil rights and personal liberties and things like that… pretty much everybody under 30 had a very similar point of view about life," he says. "It was a matter of a generation gap, young people versus older people, and in some sense, people without much personally against the so-called fat cats up at the top who were, by and large, a lot older and probably much more conservative. It's just that dynamic still pretty much holds true. I just feel saddened that in America now in this new millennium, we're so polarized, and instead of discussing, we're shouting at each other and hurling epithets and even more at each other."

He continues: "I hope we find a peaceful middle ground. It will do us all more good if we calm down and are able to concentrate on the things that we have in common and try to work out the differences."

With his focus now, more than ever, on family, Fogerty has welcomed his sons Shane, 30, and Tyler, 29, and daughter Kelsy, 20, into the family line of business, with the group recording and releasing Fogerty's Factory, an album of mostly CCR covers, in 2020.

The star says his sons — who also perform together as Hearty Har — were raised on classic rock and grew up trailing Dad on tour, so it was "perfectly natural" for them to pursue careers in music.

Though he watched his relationship with his own brother deteriorate as business drama interrupted the music, Fogerty has found it rewarding to watch his sons form a musical bond of their own.

"It's just the greatest to be on stage and having my family out there playing with me and doing a great job," he says. "It's just wonderful, it's the best feeling in the world."

Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall and Travelin' Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall, which is narrated by actor Jeff Bridges, will be released on Netflix on Sept. 16.  A super deluxe edition box set of both the album and the film will be out Nov. 18.