The Creedence Clearwater Revival song that “vibrated inside” John Fogerty

John Fogerty penned many era-defining classics with Creedence Clearwater Revival. Capturing the countercultural spirit with soulful Americana and rousing vocal delivery, his work with the group remains widely influential and a portal to the momentous era of the late 1960s and early ’70s.

While Fogerty wrote about many topics, one aspect of his life that has regularly cropped up as affecting his music was being drafted into the US Army Reserve in 1966. Although this occurred before Creedence Clearwater Revival when he was playing in the terribly named band The Golliwogs, featuring brother and CCR bandmate Tom, this era would significantly influence the group in their final form.

During his time in the Army Reserve, a period which had the bloody Vietnam War raging in the background, Fogerty trained at Fort Bragg, Fort Knox and Fort Lee, an incredibly close proximity to American power for a hippie. However, his time was relatively brief. He completed his active duty for training in July 1967 and then, luckily, was discharged in 1968 after serving as a part-time reservist.

Immediately after he was discharged from the Army, Fogerty penned what is probably the band’s best-loved hit, ‘Proud Mary’ from 1969’s Bayou Country. In Hank Bordowitz’s Bad Moon Rising: The Unofficial History of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fogerty recalls that he had been trying to get out of the forces for a while. One day, on the steps of his apartment, he came across a “diploma-sized” letter from the government. However, he did not open it immediately, and it sat there for a day or two, teasing him from next to his front door.

Then, when he looked at the letter properly, he saw it was addressed to him. Fogerty opened it at once and was met with his honourable discharge notice, which delighted him, as “people were still dying” in Vietnam. “I was so happy,” he said, “I ran out into my little patch of lawn and turned cartwheels.”

After receiving the news he had long been waiting for, Fogerty was galvanised. He ran into the house and picked up his guitar. It was then that ‘Proud Mary’ poured out of him. He knew it was his best song, as it “vibrated inside me”.

He explained: “Then I went into my house, picked up my guitar and started strumming. ‘Left a good job in the city’ and then several good lines came out of me immediately. I had the chord changes, the minor chord where it says, ‘Big wheel keep on turnin’/Proud Mary keep on burnin” (or ‘boinin’,’ using my funky pronunciation I got from Howling’ Wolf). By the time I hit ‘Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river,’ I knew I had written my best song. It vibrated inside me. When we rehearsed it, I felt like Cole Porter.”

Listen to ‘Proud Mary’ below.

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