-- “Well, I guess I’m just gonna have to do it with music.”
It’s a fitting phrase for rocker John Fogerty, who just released his new memoir “Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music."
“Over the years when I try to talk to someone about the Creedence years, it was just in a newspaper or short radio interview,” Fogerty told ABC News about why he decided to publish a memoir. “There was never enough time to explain some of the things, which were pretty complicated, and I would always feel unfulfilled. I've become quite happy and fulfilled in my life, meeting my beautiful wife Julie, and raising a family together. It kind of all pushed that anger and bitterness and all the rest of it, it sort of pushed it out of me. Therefore I can talk about those times without all this knee-jerk anger.”
“I really cared to get it straight,” he continued. “I want my own family to know. I feel good just telling the truth about everything to the best that I can.”
It was Fogerty’s leadership as the group’s singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer that made Creedence a hit-singles machine, churning out classics including “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Down on the Corner,” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain." The band’s peak of success occurred in 1969 when Creedence released three studio albums “Bayou Country,” “Green River,” and “Willy and the Poor Boys.” But according to Fogerty's book, the tensions within the band went back as far as the recording of “Proud Mary,” arguably the band’s signature song. Yet Fogerty maintained his determination to make Creedence a success by taking it upon himself to be involved in every aspect of the music.
“That was my highest priority to keep the band together,” he said. “And I thought of myself as a band member. I was very proud of this band, that we were doing this together. It turned out I can do the heavy lifting. I evolved and sort of started pulling the reins, 'No, this goes this way! This is it! I can see it!’ But I was pulling for the band, of course. What is really weird - and I'm not trying to excuse myself - but I thought everyone would be on board with that. It always surprised to me that there was so much resistance that I found the 'Northwest Passage' – 'Look, here it is, this is the way to go!' And everyone started to really resist. I tried very hard to soothe everybody's ego.”
Creedence broke up in 1972 and Fogerty’s solo output was infrequent as the musician was mired in litigation against Fantasy Records' Zaentz, who owned the copyright to Fogerty’s CCR songs. At one point, Zaentz sued Fogerty over the latter’s 1985 solo hit “The Old Man Down the Road” because it sounded too much like the 1970 Creedence song that Fogerty wrote called “Run Through the Jungle”; the singer emerged victorious during the court trial in 1988. He admits now that reliving some of those dark moments for the book were painful.
“I would say to Julie at the end of a day of working on stuff, 'It just put all this stuff back in my brain and makes me kind of think about it again,'" he recalled. "Working on the book forced me to have that stuff back in my consciousness. It wasn't pleasant, let's put it that way. In some ways, the day the book was finally really finished, I was quite relieved to not have to be digging that up again.”
Because of his fight with Zaentz, who died in 2014, Fogerty didn’t play Creedence songs at his own shows for 15 years starting in the early '70s. The self-imposed boycott was finally lifted in 1987 when he gave an impromptu performance of “Proud Mary” at a show by the musician Taj Mahal, and then later at a Vietnam Veterans concert in Washington, D.C.
“That was really hard, that was a horrible self-imposed boycott and exile,” he said of that period in his life. “I still don't own my songs and I'm not thrilled about that situation. But the fact that I made a stand and behaved that way rather than just knuckled under the mighty corporation--I am very glad I can look my kids in the eye and they know I'm a principled person and I stick up for things I believe in.”
“I'm glad I got to live through all of that — the dark times – when I was uncomfortable with everything. If the song came on the radio, I would change the station because of all the jumbled emotions around it," he said. "But now I'm very happy that I get to enjoy that. It is quite remarkable."