“Proud Mary” is one of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s (CCR) most successful songs, reaching the impressive number two slot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1969. The tune beautifully combines swamp rock with soul, with a magnetic chorus that’s hard to resist singing along to. How did such a classic come to be? As it turns out, this quintessential CCR song had humble beginnings in John Fogerty’s songbook.
According to “Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music,” Fogerty wanted to focus on songwriting after getting out of military service, so he bought a notebook where he could write down phrases he came up with: “Proud Mary” was the first phrase he wrote down. Fogerty goes on to explain that, while he liked the phrase for a song title, he had no idea what it would actually be about. Inspiration came a-knocking, though, once he got his discharge papers. He started playing his guitar and singing, and soon realized that “Proud Mary” was about a river boat (hence lyrics like “Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river”).
CCR wasn’t the only music act to make it big with “Proud Mary.” As The Atlantic reports, the “Queen of Rock” Tina Turner covered the song in 1971, while she was still part of Ike and Tina Turner. Turner’s fierce cover took the duo’s career to the next level — and seriously impressed Fogerty, who thought Turner’s version was lovely.