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Last modified 6/18/17

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Proud Mary—Creedence Clearwater Revival (4th Street)

Written in 1968 by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Proud Mary is undoubtedly the band's most covered song.  The third track on side 2 of their second studio album Bayou Country, it was released as a single by Fantasy Records,  a tiny jazz label based in Berkeley, CA.  The song became a major hit in the U.S., peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1969.  It was the first of five singles by Creedence that went to No. 2 on the US chart. The band has the distinction of having  the most  No. 2 songs without ever having a No. 1.

The song came together on the day that John Fogerty got his discharge papers from the US Army in late 1968.  Two years earlier, Fogerty had been drafted and placed in a reserve unit, serving at Fort Bragg, Fort Knox, and Fort Lee.   

On the day of his discharge, he recalls, “I was so happy, I ran out into my little patch of lawn and turned cartwheels.  I went back into my house, picked up my guitar, and started strumming. 'Left a good job in the city' and then several good lines came out of me immediately. I had the chord changes, the minor chord where it says, 'Big wheel keep on turnin', Proud Mary keep on burnin''(or 'boinin',' using my funky pronunciation I got from Howling' Wolf). By the time I hit 'Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river,' I knew I had written my best song.  It vibrated inside me.  When we rehearsed it, I felt like Cole Porter."

Initially, Fogerty envisioned it as the story of a woman named Mary who works as a maid for wealthy people.   However, after the group watched an episode of the television show, Maverick, Stu Cook, the Creedence bass player, suggested the riverboat theme.  Fogerty liked the idea and wrote the opening chord progression to sound like a riverboat paddle wheel going around.  This is how Proud Mary went from being a cleaning lady to a boat.

Ike & Tina Turner first covered Proud Mary in 1970. This version was released as a single from their Workin' Together album The Turners' version was substantially rearranged by R&B drummer Soko Richardson and Ike Turner.  It became one of Tina Turner's most recognizable songs.

Proud Mary inspired 35 covers in the year 1969 alone. Over 100 have been made since. According to the book Bad Moon Rising, Bob Dylan called Proud Mary his favorite song of 1969.


Proud Mary

17ProudMary (2).mp3