The Legal Beat: Fogerty Gains Control of Creedence Clearwater Revival

After decades of fighting, John Fogerty has finally purchased control over Creedence Clearwater Revival (“CCR”) compositions. This is contrary to the recent trend of major recording artists (such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen) selling their catalogs for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Fogerty purchased a majority interest in worldwide publishing rights to his CCR song catalog from Concord, including “Proud Mary” and the Vietnam War protest song “Fortunate Son.”

The actual sum paid by Fogerty has not been disclosed.  

Concord has retained the rights to the CCR master recordings and will administer Fogerty’s share of publishing for an undisclosed period of time.

Fogerty had tried for many years to get back the rights since he signed a recording and publishing deal with Saul Zaentz’s Fantasy Records in 1968. Fogerty ended up giving up his royalties to Zaentz in order to terminate his deal with Fantasy. Zaentz died in 2014. He and Fogerty had a long and litigious  relationship. In the 1980’s Zaentz sued Fogerty for plagiarism, asserting that Fogerty copied his own CCR song “Run Through the Jungle” on his solo release The Old Man Down the Road. It went all the way to the U.S. Supreme court where Fogerty won.  

For many years, Fogerty refused to perform CCR songs live, as he did not want Zaentz to profit from it. Then in 1987 with some encouragement from Bob Dylan, he performed “Proud Mary” at the famous Palomino Club. Thereafter, he began including CCR songs into his live shows.

Fogerty obtained copyrights to over 65 songs, written by him from 1969 to 1972, which was the height of CCR’s popularity.

Under U.S. copyright law, the rights to these compositions would have begun reverting back to him in only a few years when they became 56 years old. However, if the compositions reverted, it would not have included rights outside of the U.S.

Fogerty stated: “I’m the dad [of these songs]. I created them… they never should have been taken away in the first place. And that hijacking left such a massive hole in me. The happiest way to look at it is, yeah, it isn’t everything. It’s not a 100 percent win for me, but it’s better than it was. I’m kind of still in shock.”

Fogerty left Fantasy in 1974 but he and Zaentz continued to argue over various matters. Fogerty ended up re-signing with Fantasy about 30 years later after Concord purchased Fantasy. Fogerty’s latest attempt to re-acquire his publishing started about a year and a half ago. Fogerty’s wife and manager, Julie, approached Fantasy seeking to buy the global rights to the compositions. At first, Fantasy was not interested, but then Fogerty brought in his former manager Irving Azoff to help close a deal.

Azoff stated: “John Fogerty is one of music’s greatest treasures. Now, finally, after decades of suffering, I’m thrilled to see John regain ownership of his music... And kudos to Concord for understanding that doing the right thing for artists is great for their business as well.”