John Fogerty Talks 'Joyful Journey' to New Album of Starry Collaborations

John Fogerty
Ebet Roberts

Creedence icon previews "Wrote a Song for Everyone," his new collection of songs with My Morning Jacket, Kid Rock, Dawes, Foo Fighters and others

As John Fogerty ambled onto the stage of the Iridium nightclub in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon to talk about his remarkable new album "Wrote A Song For Everyone," interviewer Bill Flanagan introduced him as "one of the greatest songwriters America ever produced."

No one would argue that point.

As the songwriter, singer and visionary behind Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fogerty created a extraordinary streak of hits on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1968 and 1972. His CCR songs like "Proud Mary," "Bad Moon Rising," and "Fortunate Son" not only created a soundtrack for those tumultuous years in America, they've transcended that era to define rock n' roll for the ages.

As a solo artist Fogerty's songwriting gift has been undiminished, with tunes like the joyous anticipation of "Almost Saturday Night" or the wheels-on-fire celebration of "Hot Rod Heart" from his Grammy winning "Blue Moon Swamp" album.

Now Fogerty has re-interpreted these songs and others from his deep catalog for "Wrote A Song For Everyone," recording with an amazing roster of pop, rock and country all-stars including: the Foo Fighters, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, the Zac Brown Band, My Morning Jacket, Kid Rock, Dawes, Bob Seger, Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson and the ensemble of Jennifer Hudson, Allen Toussaint and the Rebirth Brass Band.

The album, which also includes two new original Fogerty songs, arrives May 28 from Vanguard Records. Vanguard is part of the Welk Music Group and company chief Kevin Welk proudly hosted the invite-only album release party at the Iridium.

Consider this as evidence of Fogerty's enduring stature in the music business: for more than two hours this packed room was fully attentive as Fogerty and Flanagan, executive VP for MTV Networks, sat side-by-side on wooden chairs and talked about the new album, playing each track in turn. Many in the audience even complied with requests to drop cell phones into to the plastic bins on tabletops. Few command that level of respect.

Fogerty credits his wife, Julie, with the idea of calling upon artists he liked to re-record his classic hits and other choice songs. He's been working on the album for awhile and he certainly didn't need inspiration from any other similar recent projects. But it can't escape the notice of the folks at Vanguard that Lionel Richie, by re-recording his past hits with country stars for 2012's "Tuskeegee," enjoyed his highest-charting album in nearly 15 years.

This playback session offered not only information about Fogerty's new recordings, but also insights into songs that many fans have treasured for years.

Before the chat and playback began, a video of a young Fogerty appeared on a screen with his voice over: "I was drafted in 1965, when I was 20 years old."

Fogerty, in fact, served in an Army Reserve unit, including six months of active duty in the late 60s. Although he was not sent to Vietnam, his experience gave him a different perspective than many anti-war protestors of that time. "To me, those soldiers were my brothers," he said. His anger with privileged young men who avoided the draft led to led to one of his most stinging and lasting songs, the track that opens his new album.

"Fortunate Son" -- After his emotions built throughout the era of anti-war protests, "I wrote the whole song in 20 minutes," recalled Fogerty. The song, a cultural touchstone, has been covered by numerous artists and appeared in multiple movies. Fogerty proudly explained the extended guitar fury of this new version. "That's me with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters," he said.

"Almost Saturday Night" -- "That's Keith playing banjo," said Fogerty. As in Keith Urban, who had grown up as a John Fogerty fan. Flanagan had played a role in the collaboration, persistently suggesting to Fogerty that he and Urban team up for CMT's "Crossroads" show, a pairing that finally took place in 2005.

"Lodi" -- Written when "Proud Mary" was high on the charts, Fogerty says the song was a "projection" of the fate of "an older guy, probably a country musician" who finds himself fated to play small towns, like those the singer knew as a boy in Northern California. And the backing musicians on this version? Fogerty's own sons, Shane and Tyler, recording with their dad at Abbey Road Studios in London.

"Mystic Highway" -- One of the two new songs from Fogerty on the album, its title is a phrase that he says he wrote in a notebook of ideas "20 or 30 years ago." It comes to life now with Fogerty's trademark swamp guitar sound and a swinging country rock beat.

"Wrote A Song For Everyone" -- A deeply personal song that first appeared on the CCR "Green River" album in 1969, the track finds new life with vocals by Fogerty and Miranda Lambert. In the studio, Lambert suggested it needed "a face-melting guitar solo." Fogerty recalled: "I'll do a solo like Tom Morello." Then: "No, I'll call Tom Morello. The answer came back: Where? When?"

"Bad Moon Rising" -- Fogerty recalled running into the Zac Brown Band at a country award show some years back and telling the band's frontman "I'd love to pick with you one day." That day came with this collaboration.

"Long As I Can See The Light" -- As producer of his album, Fogerty took on the responsibility for every stage of the studio setup for a long one-day session with "My Morning Jacket" that produced a fresh version of this Creedence classic.

"Born On the Bayou" -- Kid Rock "basically went and recorded his version of this song and he showed up and said, `Here, it's all done,'" quipped Fogerty. Fellow Detroit rocker Bob Seger also is on the album "and somehow between them they hatched this plan." The howling new version of the song debuted, appropriately, in New Orleans, during this month's Super Bowl.

"Train Of Fools" -- The second of two new compositions for the album and "probably my favorite song on the album because it's new," said Fogerty.

"Someday Never Comes" -- A beautiful new rendition of another Creedence classic, the song is a folk-rock-flavored collaboration with the Dawes. In the early 70s, Fogerty recalled, "my life was pretty chaotic." When his first marriage ended, he would tell his offspring of that union that "someday, you'll understand," the same line his divorcing parents gave to him. "The irony of that," he told Flanagan, "was inescapable. And painful."

"Who'll Stop The Rain" -- Inspired by Creedence Clearwater Revival's experience amid the deluge of Woodstock in 1969, Fogerty offered a deeper meaning behind the lyric as "a metaphor for my generation, looking for someone to speak truth to us." And the soulmate sharing vocals with Fogerty on this new piano-driven version? None other than Bob Seger.

"Hot Rod Heart" -- "It was Brad [Paisley's] idea to to have a [guitar] shoot-out on Main Street" on this version of one of Fogerty's solo gems. "I begged him for a guitar lesson the day we recorded."

"Have You Ever Seen The Rain" -- The sonorous country vocals of the great Alan Jackson are unmistakable on this new reading. "It was like having Lincoln on my album," joked Fogerty.

"Proud Mary" -- A song, Flanagan noted, with two classic versions: one from Creedence and the other Ike & Tina Turner. And now comes this third classic rendition, which Fogerty credits to the creative vision of his wife, Julie. With heart-stopping vocals from Jennifer Hudson, and New Orleans-bred backing from Allen Toussaint and the Rebirth Brass Band, this "Proud Mary" flows like the Mississippi itself connecting rock, R&B, Cajun and zydeco styles into the album's mighty finale.

With Fogerty on stage, asked Flanagan, how could they end without a brief performance?

The singer complied, strapping on an electric guitar for a sizzling, chilling, solo rendition of "Fortunate Son."

This new album, said Fogerty earlier, has been "a joyful journey for me. It is a high-water mark in my life."