Friday, January 18, 2019

Today in Music (1969): “Proud Mary” set sail on the charts

Proud Mary

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Writer(s): John Fogerty (see lyrics here)

First Charted: January 18, 1969

Peak: 2 US, 2 CB, 11 GR, 11 HR, 8 UK, 2 CN, 5 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 5.0 radio, 31.1 video, 140.04 streaming

Proud Mary

Ike & Tina Turner

First Charted: January 30, 1971

Peak: 4 US, 5 CB, 6 HR, 5 RB, 3 CL, 62 UK, 11 CN, 4 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 5.0 radio, 117.46 video, 47.50 streaming

Awards (CCR):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Ike & Tina Turner):

About the Song:

“Proud Mary” established Creedence Clearwater Revival as the best act out of New Orleans since Fats Domino, an impressive feat since they’d never been there! SJ In fact, singer/songwriter John Fogerty had never been to the South period, but said “I was drawn to that my typical world of Mark Twain…Stephn Foster, Howlin’ Wolf…The South seemed to exist in another time – a slower, more leisurely time. It seemed exotic as if it were someplace far away, and yet very American at the same time.” SS

The band’s signature swampy sound understandably gave them a Louisiana vibe, but a guitar solo which Fogerty said was influenced by Booker T & the MG’s Steve Cropper helps tie the song to the musical South as well. The fact that it also sounds “like an ancient gospel song in its rousing rallying cry” AMG doesn’t hurt either. Music critic Dave Marsh called it “a riff and a rhythm that roll along as mighty as the Mississippi itself.” DM Add in steamboat-themed lyrics and the connection is complete.

Fogerty called “Proud Mary” “the first really good song I ever wrote.” RS500 Bob Dylan called it his favorite song of the year. SS Fogerty had the title first, thinking it might be a song about a maid in a rich household. SS When he started singing about the river, he decided to make the song about a boat, RS500 a “story of a Mississippi paddle steamer as she plies the waters from Memphis to New Orleans, a reminder of the days when the river was alive with traffic.” DT

This blossomed into a tale of a man abandoning the city for work on a steamboat, a theme which fit well with the 1969 back-to-the-country counterculture movement, even if Fogerty’s message was really about “a working man finding release, not a middle-class hippie yearning for a pastoral ideal.” AMG Some people interpreted the line “keep on rolling” as a drug reference. DT

As the band’s first U.S. top ten, “Proud Mary” has also become the definitive CCR song, blending Americana, swamp rock, blues, country, rockabilly, gospel, and soul. AMG The song gave the band a dubious record – as the first of five CCR singles to peak at #2, the band gained the distinction of hitting the runner-up slot the most times without ever going to #1. WK

While it didn’t go to the top, it pulled off a rare feat in becoming the signature song for not one, but two major recording acts. Ike and Tina Turner enhanced the song’s gospel and soul vibe to create “a raveup with the feel of a church revival.” AMG It landed the duo at #4 on the pop charts and #5 on the R&B charts in 1971.


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Last updated 9/15/2023.

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