Creedence Clearwater Revival gave us some of the most loved songs in classic rock.
Which ones were the best? We’ll tell you all about them and fill you in on the band’s history too.
Rolling on the river is not required.
Let’s dive in!
About Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival, or CCR, was an American rock band with plenty of Southern and Roots Rock influences.
John Fogerty, lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist, formed the band in El Cerrito, California, in 1967. His brother, Tom Fogerty, played rhythm guitar, Stu Cook was on bass, and Doug Clifford was the drummer. All four attended high school together.
They’d played with each other since 1959, first as the Blue Velvets then as The Golliwogs.
Becoming Creedence Clearwater Revival
A recording contract caused the name change, and success followed when they got radio play with the song Susie Q.
Their debut self-titled album gained traction. But the band’s second one, Bayou Country, made the band take off.
For the next few years, they tirelessly toured and released music. Between 1968-1970, Creedence released six albums, and in 1969 alone, they had three top ten albums. CCR was the first act signed to play the Woodstock Festival, and they booked a European tour.
Along with the mounting fame came mounting tensions. John Fogerty and his brother fought over John’s controlling behavior, and Tom quit in 1971.
Infighting continued among the remaining three, with Cook and Clifford wanting more creative control. They attempted a new approach where each member wrote three songs per record. They created their final album, Mardi Gras (1972,) with this compromise, and it received terrible reviews.
By then, Fogerty was fighting much with his bandmates and the record label. Fogerty felt their label wasn’t fulfilling their promise of a better record deal.
In 1972, CCR formally disbanded. Fogerty has never played with the band again, and he said it’d be too painful to play those songs. Fortunately, he changed his mind and started performing Creedence Clearwater Revival songs alongside new material in 1987. He won a Grammy for his solo album, Blue Moon Swamp, in 1997.
Tom Fogerty released a couple of solo albums, but he never got much momentum as a solo artist. He never really reconciled with his brother, either. Tom contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion and died in 1990.
Clifford and Cook have continued to work together. They sometimes perform as Creedence Clearwater Revisited. It’s unlikely that the remaining members will reunite, according to them.
Remembering Creedence Clearwater Revival
They were only active for four years, which is hard to fathom, given their body of work. Not only did they leave a legacy of hits, but they truly spoke to audiences of the time.
Listeners found it refreshing that Creedence wrote about war, family, and the working class. Certainly issues that pop artists didn’t touch.
Their music was also unique because all four members were from California, yet the deep South inspired much of their sound and lyrics.
Let’s look back on some of the greatest Creedence Clearwater Revival songs now. There are plenty of good ones, but we picked seven we think you’ll like.
#7 Bad Moon Rising
About the Song: At only two minutes and twenty seconds, this short song made an impact. The original version, written by John Fogerty, went to #2 in the US and 1 in the UK. Many artists have covered it, from Jerry Lee Lewis to Emmylou Harris to cello-rock band Rasputina.
The song is catchy but has a lot of mystery about it. What is this bad moon that’s on the rise, and what trouble will it bring?
Fogerty wrote the song after watching a hurricane scene in The Devil and Daniel Webster. He said he was thinking about the apocalypse.
“Don't go around tonight Well it's bound to take your life There's a bad moon on the rise.”
First Appearance: Bad Moon Rising was on the 1969 CCR album Green River, but it was also released as a single four months prior.
#6 Someday Never Comes
About the Song: John Fogerty wrote this song while remembering his parents’ divorce. He remembered how hard it was for him as a child. His father told him he’d understand someday. As the title implies, someday never comes.
This is the last single CCR released before breaking up, and it peaked at #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. It’s easy to see why people love this song with its slow verses, fast choruses, and soulful vocals.
You better learn it fast and learn it young ‘Cause someday never comes.
First Appearance: This album was on CCR’s 1972 album Mardi Gras and a single released before the album.
#5 Have You Ever Seen The Rain
About the Song: On the surface, this classic roots-rock song is about a rainstorm on a sunny day.
Many contemporaries thought it was really about current events. However, some said the rain was a metaphor for the falling bombs in Vietnam. Others thought the song was about the waning idealism of the sixties.
John Fogerty wrote the song and said it was about knowing the band wouldn’t be on top forever. Even so, this became one of their biggest hits, making it to #8 on the Billboard charts.
I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain? Coming down on a sunny day
First Appearance: The song Have You Ever Seen the Rain was on the 1970 Creedence Clearwater Revival album Pendulums and was a single in 1971.
#4 Down On The Corner
About the Song: This song hit #3 on the charts, and it has a sweet backstory.
Writer John Fogerty saw a newspaper ad that mentioned Winnie the Pooh, his favorite childhood character. As Fogerty looked at the headline, the phrase “Willy and the poor boys” came into his head. That was the original title of the song.
He notes that he’s shared Winnie the Pooh with his daughter since she was born, adding that she outgrew it, and he didn’t.
Fittingly, the song is upbeat with fun calypso influences.
Down on the corner Out in the street Willy and the Poor Boys are playin' Bring a nickel, tap your feet
First Appearance: “Down On the Corner” was on their 1969 album Willy and the Poor Boys. It was released as a single a month later.
#3 Long As I See The Light
About the Song: Fogerty plays electric piano and performs a saxophone solo on this song that explores faith. Fogerty wrote it about feeling like a loner and needing a light to guide him home. For him, the light was both the light of God and the light of his family’s love.
One cool piece of trivia is that CCR never performed this song live. Fogerty sang it as a solo artist, but the band never tackled it in concerts. Fogerty recorded a new version of the song with the band My Morning Jacket in 2013.
On a more pop level, electronic artist Moby sampled the drumbeat on his song The Sky is Broken.
Though I'm going, going I'll be coming home soon Long as I can see the light
First Appearance: Long As I Can See the Light first released in 1970 as a b-side to Lookin’ Out My Back Door. It was on their Cosmo’s Factory album, the band’s fifth.
#2 Proud Mary
About the Song: This Creedence Clearwater Revival song has a powerful beat and roots-rock flavor. The chorus, “rollin’ on the river,” a nod to Mark Twain, reinforces the Southern sounds.
Fogerty wanted to capture a Twain-like story of a man’s adventures on the road. The song tells of a man who gives up a comfortable life to feel free.
He began the song when he was in the National Guard, finishing it in the first few days after he got out. Proud Mary peaked at #2.
Two years later, a cover of it by Ike and Tina Turner reached #4 and won a Grammy.
Big wheel keep on turnin' Proud Mary keep on burnin' Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river
First Appearance: CCR released Proud Mary as a single in January 1969. It was also on their Bayou Country album, released the same month.
#1 Fortunate Son
About the Song: Fortunate Son quickly became associated with Vietnam War protests. For Fogerty, the song had a more narrow focus on class differences. He wrote about rich men making wars and sending poor men to fight them.
The “fortunate son” that inspired him was President Eisenhower’s grandson David Eisenhower, who enlisted in the military but always stayed far from any battles. The piece has been used widely in advertising and political campaigns.
Fogerty is quick to be sure the song isn’t used by those he feels are disrespectful to the military. He liked Bruce Springsteen’s version of the song, and several punk bands covered the song, finding its message timeless.
It ain't me, it ain't me I ain't no millionaire's son, no, no It ain't me, it ain't me I ain't no fortunate one.
First Appearance: Fortunate Son is on the Willy and the Poor Boys album. They also released it as a double single with Down On the Corner in 1969.
Which CCR Song is Your Favorite?
One thing to love about CCR is their versatility. In this list of just seven songs, you’ll find anti-war classics, testaments of faith, sad songs about family, and rousing songs about being free on the Mississippi.
There aren’t many songwriters who can capture all that and present it so well. But, John Fogerty has such remarkable dimension and talent that it seems to come easily to him.
How did we do? Would you change the order or add different Creedence tunes? Let us know!