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Boomer Anthems: Proud Mary
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Boomer Anthems: Proud Mary

1969 aka 50 years ago.

Left a good job in the city
Workin’ for the man ev’ry night and day
And I never lost one minute of sleepin’
Worryin’ ’bout the way things might have been….

Fogerty wrote the lyrics based on three song title ideas: “Proud Mary,” “Riverboat,” and “Rolling On A River.” He carried around a notebook with titles that he thought would make good songs, and “Proud Mary” was at the top of the list. The song came together on the day that John Fogerty got his discharge papers from the US Army. Fogerty had been drafted in 1966 and was part of a Reserve unit, serving at Fort Bragg, Fort Knox, and Fort Lee. His discharge papers came in 1967. Fogerty recalls in Bad Moon Rising: The Unofficial History of Creedence Clearwater Revival by Hank Bordowitz:

“The Army and Creedence overlapped, so I was ‘that hippie with a record on the radio.’ I’d been trying to get out of the Army, and on the steps of my apartment house sat a diploma-sized letter from the government. It sat there for a couple of days, right next to my door. One day, I saw the envelope and bent down to look at it, noticing it said ‘John Fogerty.’ I went into the house, opened the thing up, and saw that it was my honorable discharge from the Army. I was finally out! This was 1968 and people were still dying. I was so happy, I ran out into my little patch of lawn and turned cartwheels. 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.”   – Songfacts

Big wheel keep on turnin’
Proud Mary keep on burnin’
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river

Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis
Pumped a lot of pane down in New Orleans
But I never saw the good side of the city
‘Til I hitched a ride on a river boat queen

Big wheel keep on turnin’
Proud Mary keep on burnin’
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river

If you come down to the river
Bet you gonna find some people who live
You don’t have to worry ’cause you have [if you got] no money
People on the river are happy to give

Big wheel keep on turnin’
Proud Mary keep on burnin’
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Richard March 26, 2019, 12:37 PM

    One of my minor life’s regrets is never having had the opportunity to see Creedence. Closest I came happened a couple of years ago when the local park district booked a cover band. Fortunate Sons if memory serves. Clothing and instruments were nearly spot-on, and when the guy doing the John Fogerty vocals opened up, he nearly blew the concert goers away. 50 years ago, and I can vividly recall cruising in my ’69 Chevelle SS with CCR cranked on the radio (Up Around the Bend). What a long strange trip it’s been, yet at times, it all seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye.

  • Casey Klahn March 26, 2019, 1:24 PM

    Tight jeans, and huge diameter cords running from the guitars to the amps (which look like houses). Doood. No hair products. No hair dryers. Plaid shirts.

    The 60s produced music waaaay out of this world. Very creative time.

  • ghostsniper March 26, 2019, 1:51 PM

    My first real job at 15 in 1970 was at McDonalds and with that first paycheck I carried my french fryin’ greasy ass to Millers dept store and bought a Lloyds portable stereo AM-FM cassette player for $30 and the Creedence cassette “Cosmo’s Factory” for $5.99. Wore it out. Saw Fogerty on TV a year ago and he’s still quite the showman. Pickin and wailin’ at full speed. You might not like his style but you gotta admire his effort.

  • Greg March 26, 2019, 2:24 PM

    Don’t believe Fogerty was ever drafted. As I recall, he received his draft notice and immediately joined the Army Reserve. Thus, no overseas duty. Fortunate son, indeed.

  • Dr. Jay March 26, 2019, 3:24 PM

    I hate this song! Yes, I said it! But I have my reason: I played in a club band during college. Between my second and third year we were hired (for the whole summer) to play at a hole-in-the wall not far from campus. Each night this “one guy” would hand the singer five bucks to sing, ready for it . . . “Rolling On The River.” After two and a half months, six nights a week playing “Rolling On The River”, yea, I hate this song. On a sober note, I really love CCR. Except for “Rolling On The River” of course.

  • jwm March 26, 2019, 3:58 PM

    @ Dr. Jay
    Back in the day if my friends and I really hated the bar crowd, or the band we’d request “Feelings”. It was worth a hit to their tip jar just to watch the pain.


  • Terry March 26, 2019, 6:42 PM

    I have several Credence albums. However, for the true R & R fan, these guys (link below) were at the head of the pack during the same era:

    Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels brought the house down like smash. Fantastic musicians all. People that had never danced got up and danced their legs off when these guys got the tempo up.

  • bud March 26, 2019, 11:39 PM

    In the reserves, and served at Knox, Bragg and Lee. That is… mistaken, to put it politely. In ’67, unlike the last 20 years or so, Reserve and Guard units were not activated for extended periods, even for domestic service. He probably did his 9 weeks of basic at Knox, 6 weeks of AIT at Bragg, and then the annual 2 week training for the next 4 years st Lee.

  • Dan Patterson March 27, 2019, 5:31 AM

    These guys were bright spots in an otherwise dismal time. There were some other meteoric displays of talent, too many to list here, but the everyman vibe CCR perfected rose above the counter-culture rebellion antics of the day that most of the other players toyed with. Has anyone written about the influence of the Bakersfield Sound on CCR and maybe early Eagles?

  • Dan Patterson March 27, 2019, 5:34 AM

    I forgot to add: Doug Clifford was an unsung hero of the CCR sound.
    Nicely did boys. Plaid shirts, blues jeans, and hours of rehearsal.

  • H March 27, 2019, 7:14 AM

    “mistaken, to put it lightly”

    Yes indeed. I liked their music, a lot, but that story stinks to high heaven. I should very much like to be given to understand how he could have been “drafted” in 1966, magically lucked into a Reserve unit to avoid active service, and received an Honorable discharge in 1968. “Fortunate Son” indeed. That story does not compute with the reality of Reserve service for most folks in those days. Somebody, somewhere was pulling some kinda big wheel strings for that to happen, or he was a real shit-head and they tossed him out to avoid publicity problems. I would very much like to see a copy of that discharge certificate and his DD Form two-fourteen.

    And for the record, we have a long and occasionally honorable history of draft avoidance in this country, so I don’t necessarily condemn anyone who didn’t go. But there’s no need to lie about it.

    Finally, and at long last, it’s worth noting that whilst Guard and Reserve service did generally get you out of Viet Nam, some units did in fact get called up, got sent over and got shot at. Among others, an Air Guard unit from Kansas got sent over, and an infantry unit from Indiana ended up as LRRPS. Close air support and long range reconnaissance hardly constitute sitting it out.

  • Dan Patterson March 27, 2019, 7:40 AM

    H has hit the nail upon it’s head, and directly with no deflection.

  • Casey Klahn March 27, 2019, 8:10 AM

    H: well said.

    I joined the Guard in ’75, in what would be the first round of after-Vietnam fully volunteer soldiers. That is to say, we weren’t avoiding Vietnam. Every swinging dick prior to me was a dodger, by dint of group guilt. Now, I’m not saying that – I’m just telling you how it was. Those were fine Americans, who by the time they reached 8 years of service in the NG, were working good jobs and when on drill or annual training probably losing money. It was draft-avoidance, but not fully avoiding service. VP Quayle was lampooned for being in the Guard during Vietnam, but then came Clinton, who was, indeed, a “fortunate son.” Very illustrative.

    I have no idea what Fogerty did in the Army Reserves. Probably whacked off in a circle and drank beer. He was a helluva musician, though.

  • Walt Gottesman March 27, 2019, 9:07 AM

    Fogerty was (is?) a helluva good performer and songwriter. Bought a CCR album on CD last month to listen again to “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” When it was first released I wondered if CCR knew something that I didn’t (“…there’s a calm before the storm…”) but read recently that Fogerty felt the band would soon breakup. Even though they’d had eight straight gold records they weren’t happy. The breakup was the storm he was writing about. Nothing more apocalyptic than that.

    Thought they were a southern band but read recently they were all from El Cerrito, California. Powerful instrumentalists, singers and songwriters. And they looked and dressed like everybody else. No fireworks or outlandish costumes. That is part of what made them great.

    Though I too wonder how Fogerty got his Honorable Discharge in only two years, at least he did something in the way of service. After I was drafted in ’67 (and sent to Germany), it took me six years to get my Honorable Discharge: Two active, two ready reserve, two standby (?) reserve.Everybody has a different fate.

  • Callmelennie March 27, 2019, 9:55 AM

    I’ll go along with this one, Gerard with one caveat. This seems to evoke the black experience of the time, more so than the white hippie experience. I mean “pumped a lot of ‘tane down in New Orleans” Which race was more compelled to do that, anyhow … and what white dude would use the word ‘tane to describe gasoline’

    It’s too bad this song was never re-interpreted by some talented black musici- Wait a Minute!!

  • Callmelennie March 27, 2019, 10:00 AM

    “But there’s just one thang. We never, EVUH do anything nice ….. and easy”

    Well damn Tina, maybe you should … reconsider

  • ghostsniper March 27, 2019, 11:52 AM

    Doods, there are 2 things we know. 1. The media lies, almost always. 2. The military’s are always changing. If you were in in 19xx that doesn’t mean the rules were the same in 19zz, and if CNN writes about it you can bet your bottom dollar it’s wrong. Suffice to say, Fogerty entered and then he was discharged. How is that in anyway wrong?

    I enlisted in the army on 20JUN1974 and finished my 4 years active duty on 19JUN1978, but did not receive my discharge until my 6 year commitment was completed on 19JUN1980. Up til that date all I had was my DD214. My discharge is in a box over there in the corner somewhere.

    My understanding was that the VN fiasco was not officially “over” until 01APR1975 and since I entered the previous JUN I am a VN veteran even though I never set foot in the country. Similarly, I was issued a “National Defense” ribbon even though I never did anything in defense of the country except enter, but because VN was ongoing when I entered I got the ribbon. During my active duty time the only additions to my uniform that I earned were higher ranks, weapons qualification medals, 3 year duty bar, and a good conduct medal for doing 3 years with no article 15’s. Shortly thereafter I blew up an ambulance and threw a machine gun down range and there went everything. When I got short I was a terrible person to be around if you were a lifer or brown noser. All the other fruit salad on my uniform was required by some faction of the army and my presence had nothing to do with it. 40 years later I still have my class A’ in plastic hanging in the closet and 2 duffle bags of TA50 and miscellaneous equipment out in the garage. I gave most of my stuff away to friends when I got out as I was really fed up with everything army, and mostly still am. I wish I hadn’t joined. No good came from it, and lots of bad. I don’t recommend it to anyone and told my son when he turned 18 in 1997 that I’d chain him to a tree before I let him join. He told me not to worry.

  • Teri Pittman March 27, 2019, 6:51 PM

    My mom loved that Green River album. And it’s still a winner. Never did see CCR live, although I’m sure my late husband saw them at the Avalon or Fillmore.

  • bud March 27, 2019, 8:50 PM

    I think I know whereof I speak. Volunteered for the draft (2 years vs shortest enlistment of 3 years) just to get it over with, basic at Ft Knox Aug 1964. Separation Aug 1966 (3 whole day “early out”, returning from overseas) . Had a fairly specialized MOS, and I selected my location to avoid the few units that could use me, so I “dodged” my active reserve requirement. 4 years of answering a questionnaire once a year, and got my Honorable in 1970. Fun fact: my 214 has my army serial number US ** *** ***, but my discharge has my SSN.

  • Casey Klahn March 28, 2019, 8:33 AM

    Well, I must be bottom crust, because I owe much to my army service and experience. It idid take away much of my life and opportunities, such as the number of times I failed to get hired because of my NG obligations, and that during economic downturns and recessions.

    But, in retrospect, the personal stuff was more important than jobs and careers unrealized. I can shine a mean shoe, and if called on for a hit, I am qualified. OK. That’s an old joke.

    Everything you do makes up much of what you are. The things you bring with you that are hereditary also make up the you. The army was an education in people that is irreplaceable, and I don’t care if it’s college, employment, recreation; nothing equals it. I know my limits, and they are well beyond what you might imagine them to be. That’s right – you might think a soldier is someone who careens around doing things he ought not do, but to my mind he’s a guy with a well-adjusted limiter who knows the edge. His edge (or her’s) is beyond the typical civilian’s. I would say the only experiences I’ve had that equals my military experience are my technical mountaineering experiences, but those only included a very narrow slice of humans. The army had a wide range of peoples, and they were strange MFers, for sure. But, there were superior people in there, as well.

    And, of course, I am full of shit. Chock full. This is an advantage, if you use it well.

    Take it easy.

  • Dave E March 30, 2019, 10:03 AM

    Pulling the lucky draft number in late 71 worked out alright for me. Enlisted in the Nav to avoid the Army, they decided I had an aptitude for electrical, and, turns out they were right. Been in that field my whole life, other than a few years playing music..

    Had one of those Kustom 3 15″ bass amps in 70, 71. My dad sold it while I was in boot camp, I owed him a little on it

    Played quite a lot of Creedence over the years, on bass or on guitar. Did “Bad Moon Rising” in my first band back in ’69