LOS ANGELES — After nearly a quarter century of wandering in a musical wilderness, John Fogerty, of Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) fame, is back - with a new album and tour.
In his third return effort since the band broke up in 1972, Mr. Fogerty says he's finally ready to lean on the rock that generations of fans and fellow musicians know as his timeless, classic sound. On the newly released "Blue Moon Swamp," says Fogerty, "I finally sound like myself again."
With it, Fogerty says goodbye to the years of bitterness over royalties and musical rights that have kept him from singing his signature songs. Even though the tour, which kicked off in early July, is clearly about his new music, he's once again singing his CCR hits.
His hiatus from performing CCR songs was not because he'd turned his back on his early self, although it appeared that way to some. He refused President Clinton's offer of a CCR reunion at the White House and wouldn't play with his former bandmates at his 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The struggles that kept him from writing or performing one of the most revered songbooks in rock history revolved around his effort to regain the legal rights to his songs. He had surrendered them to the Fantasy Records label to get out of what he considered an oppressive contract in the early '70s.
Fogerty gives most of the credit for his turnaround to his wife, Julie. "She's been the guide; she has her own wisdom. All this is the result of her unfailing love for me." Indeed, the album debuts Fogerty's first love song, which he unveiled during a performance at a variety show benefit for their two young sons' elementary school.
Fogerty also took a trip to Mississippi for the first time in his career. While this pilgrimage may seem surprising for the man who wrote "Proud Mary" 30 years ago, Fogerty says he needed to get back to the roots of rock 'n' roll to find his own.
"Rock 'n' roll is pure joy," says Fogerty. "I needed to remind myself of that before I could find my own."
For his fans, the rock legend's return took 25 years too long. Even Warner Bros. had to wait nearly five years for the album, which the musician began in 1992. "I'm selfish enough with my art that I wanted it all to be magic," he sighs.
If the critics are any indication, magic is indeed what Fogerty has found. "Delicate textures of exquisite beauty" and "vibrant" are just two of the compliments the album has received since its debut.
Fogerty is in the early stages of an exhaustive international tour. If the response his album has received abroad is any indication, Fogerty won't be needing any more comebacks. "Blue Moon Swamp" has stayed near the No. 1 spot on the Scandinavian record charts since its May 16 release. The album is doing respectably in the US; Warner's has shipped more than 400,000 domestically.
But for Fogerty, the highest praise is the reception he's gotten from new and old fans. Californian Scott Miller is typical of the generation that came of age with CCR and its bandleader. Like many of his generation, Mr. Miller has a special spot in his heart for Fogerty's songs. He says CCR's "Fortunate Son" song about social inequities came out when he was deeply introspective about his role in the military.
"I am the son of an admiral and had all sorts of conflicts about going into the academy," reflects Miller. "John's song was very important for me; it really made me think."
Calling Fogerty "the Greta Garbo" of our generation, Miller was thrilled to see him in concert again and says, if anything, his new songs sound better than ever.
Warner Bros. senior vice-president, Bob Merlis, says Fogerty has a unique place in rock 'n' roll history. "His connection to the real thing is so unfettered, so straightforward," he observes.
Miller adds that there's no need for Fogerty to worry about whether his music will appeal to the next generation. "I have a 2-1/2-year-old son who never asks me to dance with him." Miller says he put on Fogerty's "Blue Moon Swamp," and his son jumped up and dragged him onto the dance floor.
"I'd say Fogerty's back," laughs Miller, adding that this return has nothing to do with nostalgia. "It's just the music, pure and simple. It's joyful rock 'n' roll."
* John Fogerty's concert venues include Los Angeles on Aug. 28, Austin on Sept. 3, St. Louis on Sept. 8, Milwaukee on Sept. 10, Minneapolis on Sept. 11, Detroit on Sept. 13, New Orleans on Sept. 25, Memphis on Sept. 26, and Atlanta on Sept. 29. He will be touring abroad, beginning in Dublin on Oct. 16, through November. For more information, visit Fogerty's Web site at www.johnfogerty.com