You can hear it in the grooves of Blue Moon Swamp: John Fogerty has got his smile back. And he’ll be putting grins on the long-suffering faces of fans who’ll soon hear him perform Creedence Clearwater Revival hits on tour for the first time since 1973. Gone is his stubborn refusal to put even a penny in the pocket of the nemesis who owns publishing rights to those oldies, Fantasy Records chairman (and Oscar-winning English Patient producer) Saul Zaentz, whom he’s battled in court since the ’70s. During an interview, Fogerty constantly nods in the direction of his second wife, Julie, citing their six-year marriage as a source of renewal. There’s a good moon on the rise?
WAS IT A CONSCIOUS DECISION TO MAKE SWAMP SO LIGHT-SPIRITED?
Very much. We know rock & roll has room for protest songs and angry songs. But most of the things that work well are things that make you feel good…. And [1986’s] Eye of the Zombie was depressing. But I couldn’t help it at the time — I was depressed. You look back at that record and think, ”Man, that guy was angry!” I made a conscious effort not to be so indulgent and, in a word, arrogant. I’m not Pollyanna, but this record is joyful.
YOU DROVE THROUGH THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA BEFORE MAKING THIS ALBUM. DID YOU LEARN A LOT ABOUT THE BLUES FROM THAT TRIP?
I didn’t learn how to play the blues. But I learned to develop my own strength. When you see Robert Johnson’s burial place or Muddy Waters’ house and think about their lives’ work, you don’t think about who owns their songs. I was getting a point of view about myself, that I could actually maybe go to my own grave — 30 or 50 years after I’m dead — and stand there and say, ”Well, what’s really important about this guy? Was it all that crap?”… That freed me to be at the place I’m at now, where I want to perform my life’s work. I don’t care about all the bad stuff that happened financially. Of course I’m gonna play my old songs. I want to, now, before it is too late. Why not be a living legacy instead of a granite one?
INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW: DID YOU TUNE IN OSCAR NIGHT, WHEN ZAENTZ WAS BEING LAUDED AS A PRODUCER AND HUMANITARIAN?
Did I see Jabba the Hutt get the Oscar for best acting? Yeah, I knew about it. I think George Lucas ought to be real proud.