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Armchair Cyclist

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Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
« Reply #180 on: October 14, 2019, 08:18 »
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"Proud Mary's" singer, a low-wage earner, leaves what he considers a "good job," which he might define as steady work, even though for long hours under a dictatorial boss. He decides to follow his impulse and imagination and hitches a ride on a riverboat queen, bidding farewell to the city. Only when the boat pulls out does he see the "good side of the city"—which, for him, is one in the distance, far removed from his life. Down by the river and on the boat, the singer finds protection from "the man" and salvation from his working-class pains in the nurturing spirit and generosity of simple people who "are happy to give" even "if you have no money." The river in Fogerty and traditionally in literature and song is a place holding biblical and epical implications. ... Indeed, the river in "Proud Mary" offers not only escape but also rebirth to the singer.
John Fogerty: An American Son by Thomas Kitts (via Wikipedia)


Hank Bordowitz, in (Bad Moon Rising: The Unofficial History of CCR, quotes Fogerty, apparently making the analogy of his army career as the "good job in the city" and going full time into music as the boat ride:
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"The Army and Creedence overlapped, so I was 'that hippie with a record on the radio.' I'd been trying to get out of the Army, and on the steps of my apartment house sat a diploma-sized letter from the government. It sat there for a couple of days, right next to my door. One day, I saw the envelope and bent down to look at it, noticing it said 'John Fogerty.' I went into the house, opened the thing up, and saw that it was my honorable discharge from the Army. I was finally out! This was 1968 and people were still dying. I was so happy, I ran out into my little patch of lawn and turned cartwheels. Then I went into my house, picked up my guitar and started strumming. 'Left a good job in the city' and then several good lines came out of me immediately. I had the chord changes, the minor chord where it says, 'Big wheel keep on turnin'/Proud Mary keep on burnin'' (or 'boinin',' using my funky pronunciation I got from Howling' Wolf). By the time I hit 'Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river,' I knew I had written my best song. It vibrated inside me. When we rehearsed it, I felt like Cole Porter."


Fogerty, quoted in Rolling Stone magazine and in response to the use of the song's title and (adjusted) lyrics for a film, suggests that there is no particular subtle message in the song:
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I wrote the song about a mythical riverboat, cruising on a mythical river, in a mythical time. Perhaps, the setting was ‘back in time’ on the Mississippi River. It was obviously a metaphor about leaving painful, stressful things behind for a more tranquil and meaningful life, far from a story about killing people for money.


So there is no suggestion that Fogerty intended it as from a black man's perspective, although in a spoken intro to his 1969 cover, Solomon Burke imbued it with that:
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I know a lot of you folks would like to know what the old Proud Mary is all about
Well, I'd like to tell you about her
She's nothing but a big old boat
You see, my forefathers used to ride the bottoms of her as stokers, cooks, and waiters
And I made a vow that when I grew up, I'd take a ride on the old Proud Mary
And if you'd let me, I'd like to sing about it
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  • « Last Edit: October 14, 2019, 09:36 by Armchair Cyclist »

     

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