John Fogerty Tells His Version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Fractious History in New Memoir: Exclusive Excerpt

Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music, the forthcoming memoir from Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty, tells the singer's version of the band’s fractious history and long legal battle with producer Saul Zaentz. In this exclusive excerpt, Fogerty, now 70, explains why he refused to play with former bandmates Stu Cook and Doug Clifford at CCR’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. (Brother and guitarist Tom Fogerty died in 1990.)

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People in a rock n’ roll band very much feel like it’s them against the world. Your parents think you’re wacky -- “Why don’t you get a real job?” The social structure thinks you’re wacky -- you’re not earning any money, and you look funny. All you have is a dream. You’re like guys in a foxhole. You don’t know what the future is, but those present are basically vowing, “Until the day I die, I’m in this thing with you.” Way back in 1968, I had made an agreement with Tom, Doug and Stu to be equal partners. I let them share in my songwriting money. At the time, I thought I was dealing with people who understood the responsibility of what we had. But in 1988, they sold their votes to Zaentz for $30,000 each -- that’s right, thirty pieces of silver. Stu told me, “I don’t care what they do with the music -- just give me the money”? I was disgusted.

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In 1988, Saul sued me, claiming that my [1984] song “The Old Man Down the Road” was an exact copy of the Creedence song “Run Through the Jungle.” There was a lot at stake in this case. We’re talking about two songs that had been on the radio and earned a lot of money. Everybody knew these songs, including members of the jury. If Saul won, he would own this new song, just as he owned the older one. My lawyer asked him why he sued. Saul answered, “Well, that bass player in Creedence Doug Clifford” -- you’d think that Saul could at least remember that Stu Cook is the bass player, since the band had made him a fortune -- "came to my office and played John’s new album." Stu said, "'John is ripping off Creedence! You should sue him!’” I felt that I had been intentionally stabbed in the back. For Stu to go see Saul -- a person who’d cheated and lied and really treated all of us like crap -- and do that?

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When the Hall of Fame called in late 1992, they said, “We are going to induct CCR into the Hall of Fame. Would you perform with the other band members?” I said, “No.” I’m just not going to stand on a stage with those people three in a row, play our songs and be presented as a band -- particularly because these guys sold their rights in that band to my worst enemy.

It wasn’t like this hadn’t happened before. After Bill Clinton was elected, they wanted Creedence to play the inauguration in January 1993, and I had rejected it. I said, “I don’t play with those guys. We will never play as a band again.”

Condensed and excerpted from Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music by John Fogerty. To be published by Little, Brown and Company on Oct. 6. Reprinted with permission.

An edited version of this story originally appeared in the Sept. 5 issue of Billboard.