From 1967 until their breakup in 1972, Creedence Clearwater Revival (“CCR”) was a tour de force in the American music world. The band, led by frontman John Fogerty, released seven studio albums, six of which received Platinum recognition from the Recording Industry Association of America. Nine of their singles hit the top 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” and “Down on the Corner.” (Incredibly, five of their songs hit #2, but not one ever hit #1. That’s the most #2 hits of any group to never have a #1 song.) When the group broke up with what seemed to be a bright future ahead of them, Fogerty himself started off on a solo career.
And got sued for sounding too much like himself.
The CCR breakup wasn’t all that friendly, to say the least. The band never reunited except for a set at band member (and John’s brother) Tom Fogerty’s wedding. But John Fogerty’s bigger problems were with Fantasy, Inc., the band’s label. For Fogerty and Fantasy — and, more importantly, for Fogerty and Fantasy CEO Saul Zaentz — breaking up was hard to do. On Fogerty’s first notable solo album, Centerfield, the artist took two potshots at Zaentz by way of song, titling two of the eleven songs as “Zanz Kant Danz” and “Mr. Greed.” Zaentz took exception to this and threatened a defamation suit against Fogerty; Fogerty changed the title of the first song to “Vanz Kant Danz” to reduce the threat. But another claim was on the way: copyright infringement.
Fantasy owned the rights to the CCR song “Run Through the Jungle” (listen to it on YouTube here), which the band released in April of 1970. Fogerty wrote and produced the song, and he was the lead vocalist and lead guitarist on it as well. One of the songs on Centerfield, titled “The Old Man in the Road” (here’s the music video), sounded a lot like “Run Through the Jungle” — at least to Zaentz and company. They filed a lawsuit claiming that the latter was a ripoff of the former — “alleging that ‘The Old Man in the Road’ was just ‘Run Through the Jungle’ with different words,” as a subsequent court decision would note. The jury disagreed. As mental_floss noted, Fogerty argued that “the two songs may have sounded somewhat similar, but they were both variations on his signature ‘swamp rock’ style. Simply put, of course two John Fogerty songs sounded the same.”
The case made legal history for another reason as well. Fogerty’s triumph came at a massive cost — huge attorney’s fees. But it was unclear whether Fantasy should be held responsible for Fogerty’s legal bills. That question went to the Supreme Court, who decided by 9-0 decision that Fogerty (and his new label, Warner Bros.) were entitled to reimbursement.
From the Archives: Mozart Versus the Pope: Another strange copyright-ish music issue.
Related: Centerfield, the album by John Fogerty.