With frontman John Fogerty’s unforgettable raspy vocals and a classic rock sound, Creedence Clearwater Revival took the world by storm in the late 1960s. Their allure stemmed from a whole new style of rock and roll, “swamp rock,” which featured southern gothic, story-driven lyrics, bayou-based instrumentation like slide guitar, and a tightknit band who seemed like they spent their Louisiana days jamming because that is all there is to do in cajun country.
The fact that the bandmates are from California, and never spent any time in the south is a testament to frontman John Fogerty’s writing skills. Through imagination and a good study of blues greats like Muddy Waters, he constructed some of rock’s most swampy, memorable tunes.
Though the group only lasted four years, they churned out hit after hit while together. Check out our takes on the best CCR songs below.
10. Born On The Bayou
Often billed in the subgenre of “swamp rock,” it’s no surprise Fogerty gained inspiration from two of the blues’ biggest names, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. Despite these guys heading up the Chicago blues movement in the ’50s, they both grew up in Mississippi, where the legend of Robert Johnson and his delta blues influence reigns supreme. No other CCR song exemplifies their “swamp rock” designation like ‘Born On The Bayou.’ A band favorite, they went all out for the recording, introducing humming feedback and a groovy guitar and drum beat right away. The way Fogerty came up with the lyrics is even more interesting, given he’d never even been to the “bayou” at the time of writing the track. He was living in a small apartment with bare walls in front of him, so he did a creative exercise. Drawing on the ghosts of Howlin’ Wolf and Waters, he envisioned what it was like living in the swamp along the murky waters and cypress trees, and thus, ‘Born on The Bayou’ was summoned.
9. Lookin’ Out My Back Door
A rhythmic guitar chop immediately draws the listener in to ‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door,’ their last single among several in a row to chart number 2 after its debut. Playful slide guitar and Fogerty’s commanding, gravelly voice colors the song, which he wrote for his young son at the time. The fantastical imagery through much of the song led people to speculate the lyrics had to do with drugs. But in reality, John’s son Josh was on a big Dr. Seuss kick at the time, so when he wrote the hit single for him, naturally the song’s story took a bit of a Seussian approach. Though the tune was another hit for the band, it was the last of their chart-toppers and signaled the final days of CCR playing together.
8. Who’ll Stop The Rain
It hardly ever rains in California, where Creedence Clearwater Revival hails from, but the band often used it as a driving element in their songs. A lot of listeners assumed ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ was about the Vietnam War when it debuted in 1970. A war-themed movie was even named after it. However, Fogerty actually got the inspiration for the hit while he was at the infamous Woodstock Festival. While there it began to rain heavily, but that didn’t stop the concertgoers from enjoying the music. Instead of running for cover, they embraced the downpour and danced together. The song was influential among pop culture of the times. After listening to it, Bob Dylan was even inspired to write his own hit, “Shelter from the Storm.”
Related: Dylan’s Shelter from the Storm appeared in the movie Jerry Maguire, starring Tom Cruise. We include the track in our playlist of Jerry Maguire songs.
7. Up Around The Bend
With an instantly recognizable opening electric guitar riff signaling good times are just around the corner, Fogerty wrote ‘Up Around The Bend’ while traveling through rural California terrain on his motorcycle. Released in 1970 on their Cosmo’s Factory album, it was a much-needed pick-me-up for younger generations who were reeling from the Vietnam War and the end of the “flower children” era of the ’60s. The commercial appeal of the song is undeniable, and its more generalized lyrics made it a highly licensable track. Movie soundtracks for Remember The Titans and Invincible featured this catchy tune. Wrangler even included the hit in one of their jeans campaigns. Despite its widespread use, it didn’t reach quite the popularity as singles like ‘Bad Moon Rising,’ so it comes in at a respectable number 7 on our countdown.
6. Green River
Written about a vacation spot he and his family used to visit every year when he was growing up, John Fogerty carried around the name “Green River” for a long time before ever titling a song, or an album, after it. The California vacation spot wasn’t actually called Green River, instead the name came from his favorite syrup flavor he would add to soft drinks as a kid. The work CCR would go on to do for their ’69 album would be some of his favorites. The main reason was behind the overall sound of the project, which Fogerty felt represented the Memphis sound of the ’50s coming from the Sun Records roster. This is a classic rock tune perfect for a summer playlist, and features one of John’s signature guitar licks he came up with while writing the summertime single.
Related: Grab your sombrero and check out our list of summer-themed songs.
5. Down On The Corner
For this song, CCR took on the role of a whole new band, Willy and The Poorboys, a musical persona that spoke to their blue collar roots both personally and professionally. Their fourth album was named after the fictional group, and they sold their alter-egos well. ‘Down On The Corner’ features “jug band” instrumentation like the washboard and even lesser-known “washtub bass.” The fun tune sounds like CCR utilized the talents of a gospel group to sing on the chorus. In reality, Fogerty put his vocal fortitude to the test and recorded all of his own harmony parts, overdubbing them over one another. The bayou-tinged tune was another solid release by the Cali rock band.
4. Proud Mary
Many associate this tune with Tina Turner, who released a rather passionate version of ‘Proud Mary’ in 1971. However, this bayou-laden blues/rock song with R&B flare was actually written by Fogerty. Despite being from California, he was enthralled with the allure of the deep south, and thus, much of his original music had a bluesy vibe often associated with cajun-influenced states like Louisiana. Detailing the journey of a working man who leaves the big city and boards a ship named “Proud Mary” that takes him to a brighter future, the swampy setting in the song is unmistakably Mississippian, particularly along the delta region, even down to the way Fogerty enunciates words in the chorus. The epic tune was another one of their top five hits that never got that final push into the number 1 spot on the charts. Given the commercial success of CCR’s releases, it’s hard to believe they never got a number one hit while they were together.
Related: Hear the Tina Turner version on our list of best cover songs of all time.
3. Bad Moon Rising
One of CCR’s most popular tunes (it was one of several to reach #2 on the charts), also contains one of their most misheard lyrics. The last line of the verse, “There’s a bad moon on the rise,” was heard as “There’s a bathroom on the right.” Instead of worrying about how that misinterpretation would go in a live setting, frontman John Fogerty embraced it. He often jokingly sang the wrong lyric at shows, and laughed as the crowd sang it with him. One of the most endearing aspects of ‘Bad Moon Rising’ is the happy, fun instrumentation and rhythm set against eerie, apocalyptic lyrics. Fogerty got the idea for the fanastical tune while watching a movie involving a hurricane that had washed a town away. One of their signature tracks and a popular cover song to this day, this hit single comes in pretty high on our list at number 3.
Related: Check out other songs that mention the moon.
2. Fortunate Son
This is CCR’s most powerful track and one of early rock’s enduring anthems. Written as a protest against the Vietnam War, the song’s lyrics are etched into music history for good due to its unapologetic message. Even now, as soon as audiences hear the song’s opening descending guitar riff, they immediately get ready to sing the unforgettable opening lines, “Some folks are born, made to wave the flag. Oh they’re red, white and blue.” Released in 1969, it became a symbol for the counter-culture movement who opposed the draft. The song itself takes on a blue-collar feel as it highlights the less fortunate populations of society who are put first in line to fight overseas while well-healed social circles are able to get exemptions. Despite its commercial use in many films and TV shows, fans love the hit so much that it’s become one of CCR’s signature singles, the tune has always been somewhat controversial. In our opinion, controversy and rock and roll go hand-in-hand. Fogerty managed to say what many were having trouble communicating, highlighting once again his expert abilities as a songwriter. The infamous rock anthem comes in high on our list at number 2.
Related: This rock anthem also appears in the soundtrack to the movie Forrest Gump.
1. Have You Ever Seen The Rain
The California band could rock with the best of them, but they took a gentler approach with their trademark track, ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain.’ From the lyrics to the production, there are many good reasons as to why this Creedence track, in particular, reigns supreme. In context, the tune symbolically represented the final days of the band’s time together. Released in ’71, just months before they’d call it quits, the reflective lyrics focus on struggle hardship, and striving to make it through the storm to find sunny days on the other side. With a moody yet uplifting guitar progression and Fogerty’s raspy, soaring vocals, though the single was one of their last, the classic Creedence Clearwater Revival sound they had perfected is on full display. The relatable story, with natural elements like rain and sun playing key roles, has transcended its original meaning over the years, with countless listeners feeling it represents everything from war and heartbreak to spiritual renewal. The song perfectly sums up the CCR story, and comes in on top at number 1 for our countdown.