Authors: John Fogerty &  Jimmy McDonough

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition (October 6, 2015)

ISBN-10: 0316244570

ISBN-13: 978-0316244572

I came to Fortunate Son with both eager curiosity and a bit of trepidation. Anyone who knows any of the well-publicized bits and pieces revealing the acrimonious break-up of Creedence Clearwater Revival or the decades long court battles between Fogerty, Fantasy Records, and his former band mates must anticipate a heavy dose of bitterness and anger in his reflections. After all, Fogerty has many good reasons to feel betrayed, robbed, and left, to use his words, “twisting in the wind.”

While the battle lines between Fogerty and his former CCR compatriots have been in public view since the early ‘70s, Fortunate Son is Fogerty’s first in-depth defense of his choices and decisions. While one might expect his memoir would be a self-serving attack on those who have wronged him, his account is more than credible and balanced. He’s very frank about his own flaws, foibles, missteps, and poor judgement calls. True, he isn’t kind to his bandmates in his descriptions of their musicianship or contributions to the sound of CCR, but he’s most resentful of their decades long complaints it was his business choices that got them into the financial mess that still haunts the band. He tells the readers he always felt his vote was always ¼ of the decision making, that none of the group members were savvy in business matters to begin with, and that it was Sol Vance’s unethical abuse of power that got CCR into the hole that dogged Fogerty alone for decades after the demise of the band.

More importantly, perhaps, is Fogerty’s chronicle of how the music came to be. We learn how the hits were composed and shaped in the studio where Fogerty became lead singer, guitarist, arranger, and often producer with minimal input from the others. We learn how he was influenced by Stephen Foster and Mark Twain, one of the reasons a California boy set many of his songs in a Southern milieu that wasn’t part of his own experience. He discusses his quest to improve as a musician and how he was always a meticulous perfectionist.

Many rock memoirs follow the same trajectory—youthful success, long lapses in creativity due to personal excesses, and ultimate recovery and rehabilitation. Fogerty’s story isn’t quite like that. After the disaster of Mardi Gras, an album that underlines his point that the rest of CCR wasn’t especially creative in songwriting or production, it was his battles with Sol Vance and the contract that trapped him that sapped Fogerty of any musical drive. Fogerty admits the weaknesses of his solo albums while celebrating the comeback of Centerfield. But, for decades, his stage was in courtrooms while he refused to play the songs that had been taken from him.

Then, Fogerty met his future wife, Julie, and his recovery began. While alcohol was one demon, what drove him into relentless pain was frustration and resentment over trying to get his royalties and contractual freedom. He shares the points along the way that released him of his anger, chain link by chain link. And he lays out his reasons for refusing to perform with Stu Cooke and Doug Clifford at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Clearly, another frustration for Fogerty was hearing their endless cries of being victims after their repeated betrayals of their former bandleader.

In the end, Fortunate Son is an indispensable rock memoir, both for Fogerty’s important insights into how he created his CCR legacy and his extremely honest revelations regarding what happened to him in the following decades. Some readers might prefer to skim over the long passages contributed by Julie as these sections are more personal than musical. But if you want to get into John Fogerty the man, the partnership of husband and wife is what changed everything for the wounded warrior or, as Fogerty describes himself, a broken-down cowboy. Unlike other autobiographies, Fogerty brings us up to the present when he provides in-depth descriptions of his most recent projects. With pride, he talks about the accomplishments of his children and offers his observations on the current music scene, with many compliments for many contemporary performers. True, he doesn’t cover every accomplishment of his later years or discuss all his awards except his 1997 Blue Moon Swamp Grammy.

In short, yes we feel the fire of Fogerty’s anger and pain, but there’s much more going on. We learn much about a master’s creative process and why it took so long for him to write a love song. You don’t need to take sides in the still ongoing CCR wars to realize this memoir is as honest and heart filled a story as you’ll ever read. Odds are, it’ll inspire yet another lawsuit—what can John Fogerty do that doesn’t?