John Fogerty managed to acquire the majority of his historic song catalog from Concord for an undisclosed amount, giving him the U.S. and worldwide publishing rights to most of the songs he wrote for Creedence Clearwater Revival. This marks the end of Fogerty’s 50-year quest to finally own this music, a remarkable story that was first reported by Billboard. It broke just in the wake of Jeff Beck’s death and I almost would have missed it.
According to Billboard, the reclaimed CCR copyrights cover more than 65 songs, mostly written by Fogerty, including gems such as Proud Mary, Down on the Corner, Fortunate Son, Bad Moon Rising, Up Around the Bend and Green River. Concord, which owned the rights since 2004 when it acquired CCR’s original record label Fantasy Records, retains the CCR master recordings in its catalog. They will also continue to administer Fogerty’s share of the publishing catalog for an unspecified amount of time.
This whole saga started in 1967 when Fantasy Records owner Saul Zaentz offered CCR, who were then still called The Golliwogs, the opportunity to record a full-length album. When they signed a deal with the label, John Fogerty didn’t realize Fantasy would also own the publishing rights to his songs. Fogerty who extricated himself from Fantasy in 1974 made repeated attempts to gain control over his early CCR catalog to no avail. After his relationship with Zaentz had soured, he even refused to perform CCR songs during his concerts until the late ’80s, since he didn’t want Zaentz to profit from any royalties.
Things took a turn to the outright bizarre in 1985 when Zeantz sued Fogerty for copyright infringement, claiming his song The Old Man Down the Road essentially was the music of Run Through the Jungle, a CCR tune to which Zaentz owned the rights. Fogerty prevailed and was also successful in his efforts for reimbursement of legal fees, though it required taking the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1989, it appeared Fogerty through mediation had reached a deal with Zaentz to finally buy his publishing rights, but it fell apart when according to Fogerty Zaentz doubled the price at the last minute, something he couldn’t afford.
While Fogerty signed with Concord after they had acquired Fantasy from Zaentz in 2004 and they reinstated artist royalties to him, Fantasy wasn’t ready to sell any of the publishing rights as recently as 18 months ago. That’s when according to Billboard, he and his wife and manager Julie Fogerty realized that under U.S. copyright law, rights to his compositions would begin reverting back to him in a few years as the songs turned 56 years old, but that wouldn’t have included rights outside the U.S. I think it’s safe to assume this legal context played a role in reaching a deal.
“As of this January, I own my own songs again,” John Fogerty said in a statement on his website. “This is something I thought would never be a possibility. After 50 years, I am finally reunited with my songs. I also have a say in where and how my songs are used. Up until this year, that is something I have never been able to do. I am looking forward to touring and celebrating this year!”
Added Julie Fogerty: “I was always hoping for a miracle that John would own his songs, and I’m so blissful knowing that this has finally come true for him. The songs he wrote for CCR were going to start reverting in approximately three years, continuing for each year forward. I thought to myself that if there was anything I could do to make that happen now, it would be that miracle that we have been waiting for more than 50 years. I began to produce a plan to purchase his publishing right now. In doing so, I enlisted the help of Irving Azoff, Jason Karlov, Susan Genco and we were able to secure the US Rights in addition to Worldwide Rights, which would not have been part of the copyright reversions. I am so joyful, grateful, and excited for John.”
Billboard rightly notes that Fogerty’s purchase decision stands in contrast to other artists like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Neil Young, who recently sold their publishing rights for millions of dollars. Of course, nothing would prevent John Fogerty from doing the same. But after a 50-year quest, for now, he’s planning to hang to his publishing rights and for the first time in his life enjoy control over this music.
I’m happy for John and like to wrap up this post with clips of some of the songs he now fully owns. I’m also throwing in a Spotify playlist with these and some other tunes from his 55-year-plus recording career.
Proud Mary – Bayou Country (January 1969)
Green River – Green River (August 1969)
Bad Moon Rising – Green River (August 1969)
Down On the Corner – Willy and the Poor Boys (November 1969)
Fortunate Son – Willy and the Poor Boys (November 1969)
Have You Ever Seen the Rain – Pendulum (December 1970)
Here’s the aforementioned Spotify playlist:
Sources: Wikipedia; Billboard; John Fogerty website; YouTube; Spotify