Capping one of the longest and nastiest legal battles in music business history, John Fogerty has gained worldwide control of the publishing rights to his Creedence Clearwater Revival songs, more than 50 years after the songs were first released.
Fogerty has acquired a majority interest in the global publishing rights to his song catalog with the group, which includes “Proud Mary,” “Fortunate Son,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Up Around the Bend,” “Have You Ever Seen Rain” and others from Concord for an undisclosed amount, a rep for the company confirmed to Variety; the news was first reported by Billboard.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s disputes were not with Concord, which acquired the rights to the catalog in 2004, but with music and film mogul Saul Zaentz, who signed Fogerty, now 77, and Creedence to his Fantasy Records in the mid-1960s under a draconian contract that he defended aggressively and litigiously for decades. The bitter legal battle between Fogerty and Zaentz played out in the courts and the press and even in Fogerty’s thinly vieled 1985 song and music video, “Vanz Kant Danz” (which unsurprisingly led to a $144 million, ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit from Zaentz, who claimed the song copied Fogerty’s own hit “Run Through the Jungle”).
It consumed decades of the artist’s life and sidelined his music career for many years, although upon its acquisition, Concord quickly improved the terms of the deal. The company reinstated the artist royalties Fogerty had relinquished to Zaentz in 1980 to get out of his Fantasy deal, which he’d signed as a teenager and, unwisely in retrospect, renegotiated with Zaentz in 1970 while acting not only as the group’s singer, songwriter and lead guitarist but also its manager. Zaentz went on to a successful career as a film producer that was largely funded by his Creedence profits, winning Oscars for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Amadeus” and “The English Patient.” Fogerty attempted to acquired his publishing from Zaentz in 1989 and the two agreed upon a number, but at the last minute, Fogerty says Zaentz doubled the price and the deal tanked. Zaentz died in 2014.
Creedence’s late-’60s/ early-’70s heyday was huge — they reportedly sold more records than the Beatles in 1969 — but freakishly brief: They scored an incredible seven Top 5 singles and five Top 10 albums (two of them No. 1s) in just over two years, but then faded just as quickly as the group splintered and finally split in 1972.
Concord retains the CCR master recordings already in its catalog and will continue to administer Fogerty’s share of the publishing catalog for an unspecified limited time. (Fogerty owns the rights to the publishing and master recordings of his solo material.)
“The happiest way to look at it is, yeah, it isn’t everything,” Fogerty said. “It’s not a 100% win for me, but it’s sure better than it was. I’m really kind of still in shock. I haven’t allowed my brain to really, actually, start feeling it yet.”
While some publishing rights would have reverted to Fogerty in a few years anyway — under U.S. copyright law’s 56-year rule — Fogerty and his wife/ manager Julie decided to acquire as many of the rights as they could. They brought in supermanager Irving Azoff, who had managed Fogerty around 20 years ago, to help strike the deal.
Julie Fogerty said Azoff called Concord chief Scott Pascucci and said, “‘Scott, you’ve made so much money on Fogerty. Do you want to be known in the music business as Saul Zaentz or [legendary Warner Bros. Records head] Mo Ostin?’ And I think he heard that.”
Concord recently released what is presumably the last major work in the Creedence vault, a live recording of the band’s legendary 1970 concert at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall, accompanied by a documentary film narrated by actor Jeff Bridges, who of course played the Creedence-obsessed “Dude” character in the Coen brothers’ 1998 film “The Big Lebowski.” That film is just one example of the lasting legacy of Creedence’s songs, which the Fogertys plan to extend.
“I’m ready to feel really good about music,” he said.