Creedence and the Art of Chooglin’

Please welcome our newest blogger, Sara B.! She has this to say about herself: I’m a former arts and entertainment reporter who loves to root out common threads running through the books and media I happily stumble across daily. At the library, I feel like a kid in a candy store where everything is free.  

Hippies, punks, jocks, rednecks, preps, heschers -- everyone loves Creedence Clearwater Revival, and even those who don’t can’t be bothered to hate them. CCR songs are such a part of our collective pop culture that their hooks have become part of our bodily being, inhaled through accumulated listenings on classic rock radio, worn-out copies of Chronicle, and blaring stereos at beery gatherings.

Like the blue jeans and flannel shirts favored by John Fogerty, Creedence’s catalog is so comfortable it’s easy to take for granted. Stumbling on a copy of the 2001 box set simply titled Creedence Clearwater Revival reminded me not only why Creedence matters, but how visceral their music is. It also reconnected me with a period in the mid-1990s when, young and rootless and unhappy, I was a Creedence maniac. The working-class aesthetic of songs like “Willie and the Poor Boys” and “Don’t Look Now” helped me feel grounded, and the mythical rural South they painted was a soulful place to escape to.   

Then I moved to California, and I just didn’t seem to need CCR as much. Ironically, I was living just miles from El Cerrito, the band’s quiet and unremarkable hometown. Like many, I’d always assumed CCR sprouted from some Louisiana swamp, and discovering their actual suburban roots perplexed me.

Creedence started out as a run-of-the-mill teenage garage band, playing rock’n’roll and devouring R&B songs. The story of how they morphed into America’s least assuming blockbuster rock group is lovingly outlined by critics including Ed Ward and Robert Christgau in the fat and juicy liner notes accompanying the Creedence box set. Lacking earthiness in sleepy El Cerrito, Fogerty and his bandmates simply manufactured it, most audibly in Fogerty’s meaty drawl.

My husband noticed the sudden abundance of CCR in our lives and quoted from The Big Lebowski, in which the band’s music is a leitmotif for The Dude’s ideal headspace (note how, once The Dude’s Creedence tapes disappear, the movie’s plot really careens into un-Dudeliness).

When was the last time you actually listened to a Creedence song? Do so and The Dude’s headspace can be yours, my friend. Times for us are tough; many people are suffering and unhappy. That our divided society can find unity in CCR’s music is not only a pleasure, but a solace. They give us the strength to keep on chooglin’.