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Proud Mary by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Album: Bayou CountryReleased: 1969Charted:
2
8
  • The phrase "Proud Mary" reminded John Fogerty of a domestic washerwoman, which is what he started writing the song about. When he wrote the music, the first few chords reminded him of a paddle-wheel going around, and he thought of the Mississippi River. Instead of "Proud Mary" being a clean-up lady, "she" became a boat.
  • Fogerty wrote the lyrics based on 3 song title ideas: "Proud Mary," "Riverboat," and "Rolling On A River."
  • This was a #4 hit in the US for Ike and Tina Turner in 1971, and a highlight of their live shows. Tina Turner recalled in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 1971 how they came to record this on their Workin' Together album: "When we cut the album, we were lacking a few tunes, so we said 'Well, let's just put in a few things that we're doing on stage. And that's how 'Proud Mary' came about. I had loved it when it first came out. We auditioned a girl and she had sung 'Proud Mary.' This is like 8 months later, and Ike said, 'You know, I forgot all about that tune.' And I said let's do it, but let's change it. So in the car Ike plays the guitar, we just sort of jam. And we just sort of broke into the black version of it. It was never planned to say, 'Well, let's go to the record shop, and I'd like to record this tune by Aretha Franklin'... it's just that we get it for stage, because we give the people a little bit of us and a little bit of what they hear on the radio every day."
  • This was the first of 5 singles by Creedence that went to #2 on the US chart. They had the most #2 songs without ever having a #1.
  • Despite popular belief, John Fogerty was not writing from experience when he wrote this. Thanks to his military commitment, he hadn't ventured further east than Montana. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL)
  • "Proud Mary" attracted 35 covers in the year 1969 alone. Over 100 have been made so far.
  • Fogerty carried around a notebook with titles that he thought would make good songs. "Proud Mary" was at the top of the list.
  • The line, "Pumped a lot of pain down in New Orleans" is actually "Pumped a lot of 'Pane," as in propane. He was pumping gas.
  • Leonard Nimoy, who played "Mr. Spock" on Star Trek, recorded an infamous cover of this song. Near the end, he sings the chorus Elmer Fudd style - "Big wheel keep on toynin', Pwoud Mawy keep on boinin'..." It is included on a CD called Golden Throats.
  • John Fogerty (about how the guitar riff came about): "I don't know where the germ started. I can kind of remember writing the chords at the beginning of the song. Believe it or not, I was playing around with the famous riff from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. I used to tell people that the song sounds like what it's about. I thought, by the way, that the opening riff sounded just like the wheel at the back of a boat. 'Proud Mary' is not a side-wheeler, it's a stern-wheeler." (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada, for above 2)
  • Even though Creedence Clearwater Revival was from El Cerrito, California, many people thought they were from New Orleans or some other part of the South because of their swamp rock sound. They helped feed the rumor by naming their second album Bayou Country.
  • Ike and Tina Turner's version charted for the first time in the UK on the chart dated October 2, 2010 after it was performed on X-Factor by auditioneees Diva Fever. For a reason not known to us it was credited to Tina Turner only.
  • Ike and Tina performed their version on the season 2 premiere of Soul Train in 1972, becoming the first big act to appear on the program. The show became very popular its first season because of the dancers, but they were able to book many famous guests in subsequent seasons.
  • The first time that Fogerty heard Ike and Tina's version he was in the car. He recalled to Spinner: "When it ended, if they had a camera and came back to me it'd be like, when Shrek and the donkey go to Far, Far Away and they push the button for that little arcade machine and it tells the whole story of their town! And the Donkey's like [Eddie Murphy impression] 'Let's do that again!' That's how I felt when that ended. I loved it, and I was so honored. I was like, 'Wow, Ike and Tina!' I had actually been following their career for quite some time. Way back in the day, when Janis and Grace Slick started to get known by the kids who were my age, I'd be like, 'Man, Tina Turner, c'mon!' She finally got her due, but for a while there, she wasn't noticed. It was a really good version, and it was different. I mean, that's the key. Instead of the same thing, it was really exciting."
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Comments: 50

Luke from Manchester, I think I love you! It annoys me no end that on virtually every song covered in this site, some proud soul showing off his or her new lobotomy declares the song to be about drugs.
I love CCR, and John Fogerty is one of three concerts left on my bucket list. I remember being shocked to find that they were originally from California and not, as they alluded in various ways, the bayou area or somewhere along the Mississippi River. Thanks to whoever explained that faux "Cajun" accent John was trying to affect with "toinin'" and "boinin'" in this song.
Susan - Atlanta, Ga
June, 2014:
1. I don't care if it's about Drugs, Dishes, Gasoline, Typewriters, or even Pet Rocks,..it's a great song, both CCRs and Ike and Tina's Versions.

2. I like to listen to CCRs and see Ike and Tina's performed.

3. Back to #1, based on the issues of the day (back then); it's hard to believe it's not about drugs but again, I could care less if it is or isn't.
Markantney - Biloxi, Ms
On March 2nd 1969, "Proud Mary" by CCR peaked at #2 (for 3 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top chart... (See post below)...
Was the quartet's first in a string of nine straight records to make the Top 10; after 'Mary' came "Bad Moon Rising (#2 for 1 week), "Green River" (#2 for 1 week), "Down On The Corner" (#3), "Travlin' Band" (#2 for 2 weeks), "Up Round The Bend" (#4), "Lookin' Out My Back Door" (#2 for 1 week), "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" (#8), and finally "Sweet Hitch Hiker" (#6)...
On June 4th, 1972 "Someday Never Comes" peaked at #25 (for 2 weeks); and that broke their streak of Top 10 records...
And four years later in 1976 their covered version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" was their last Top 100 record, it reached #43.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On January 19th 1969, "Proud Mary" by Creedence Clearwater Revival entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on March 2nd it peaked at #2 (for 3 weeks) and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100 (and 7 of those 14 weeks were on the Top 10)...
In its first week at #2, the #1 record was "Everyday People" by Sly and the Family Stone and for its 2nd & 3rd week, "Dizzy" by Tommy Roe was in the top spot...
Was their first of five #2s on the Top 100...
"Proud Mary" was track three of side two on the group's second studio album, 'Bayou Country', the album reached #7 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
Tom Fogerty passed away on September 6th, 1990 at the young age of 48...
May he R.I.P.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On January 11th 1970 Ike and Tina Turner performed "Proud Mary" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
One year later on January 24th, 1971 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on March 21st, 1971 it peaked at #4 (for 1 week) and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
CCR's original version peaked at #2 (for 3 weeks) two years earlier on March 2nd, 1969...
And also in 1969 two covered versions made the Top 100; Solomon Burke (#45) and Checkmates, Ltd. (#69).
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Stop attaining songs to drugs unless they ARE about drugs. It's embarrassing for people with brains.Luke - Manchester, United Kingdom
I think this song very clearly draws connections to living an alternative lifestyle and doing drugs. It's about being a nomad, moving about a lot, experiencing the "high" life with drugs instead of the conventional finish highschcool maybe get a degree get a job get married, kids dogs and a house to live for the rest of your life in. It's about not fitting in the "system". And people who don't fit in are a lot more likely to smoke weed.

"Proud mary keep on burning"? People who smoke weed are often very affectionate of it. There's a million songs out there who personalize marijuana as an object or a person i.e.e Mary janes last dance from tom petty.

"Rolling, rolling, rolling"? Hard to believe a guy who probably smoked all day and was probably rolling a joint as he wrote the song didn't write this intentionally, right after proud mary keep on burning.

Pumped a lot of painpane might just be a play on words. Heroin initially gives a high but i bet it can be painful for someone without resources to try to deal with the addiction when they are all out of money and need another dose, maybe living in the street. Maybe pain wasn't the ideal word to describe itbut he needed to make it ambiguous with pane.

Now what really closes the deal

"
If you come down to the river,
Bet you gonna find some people who live.
You dont have to worry cause you have no money,
People on the river are happy to give."

meaning - If you decide to give the hippie community (general umbrella term for people who believe in alternative lifestyles, not specific people anywhere) a chance i bet you would leave with a good impression. I bet you are gonna find some people who live good lives despite not following the norm of society that is equating money with the ability to achieve happiness.

River = river of life, the flow of the universe and everyday life, a river is constantly changing and every second its flow and format is different, thought sometimes it might seem slow and at other times fast. Like life.

Now, i like other interpretations of the song too, and im not trying to put them down. Songs can have multiple meanings. But to think that the author didn't intentionally reference drugs in this song is like being in a room with an elephant and deciding to close yours eyes and say theres no elephant. It is there.

Also, it doesnt matter what the band said or didnt say. There could be a million reasons why he would rather give an answer in an interview rather than another, and Rob, Novi, MI - Did you write this straight from the DEA's headquarters? On your lunch break maybe? "Stop thinking and just hear", oh dear.
Karl - Seattle, Wa
I've allways interpreted this as a blue collar working river man's song. He kind of spoke to the lonelines, along with romance of river life. For a Nocal guy Fogerty had to have a past life in the deep South. Has great empathy!Meocyber - Alma, Co
New York City --song had went to #1 for 1 week on radio station WMCA - which played rock & roll with more of local sound-
--WABC --song went to #2 -which played National hit songs-

this took wedding bands by storm-- when a band was asked to play a rock & roll song- they would always play "PROUD MARY"
Ernie - Bronx, Ny, Ny
"Proud Mary" started the string of three consecutive records that peaked at #2; "Proud Mary" for three weeks, then "Bad Moon Rising" for a week, and finally "Green River" for one week!!!Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
this song should of been #1 for the year....at worst, definitely #2 for the year 1969Rick - Belfast, Me
the intro doesnt instill the paddlewheel for me...its the lead riff in the middle...and the fills are phenomenal...very soulful...the single reason for me learning the guitar at an early age...the big one that put creedence on the map...forever indebted to stu, doug, tom, and of course john for giving me the inspiration to follow a music career...advocationJeff - Panama City , Fl
do you know that i always thought this song was about a semi truck driver, for example rolling down the river, proud mary keep on burnin' which i thought he ment truck wheels keep on burnin down the road, even though everyone says proud mary was a boat i still like to think its a truck :)Luke - Saint Augustine, Fl
Hello Jose from Barcelona,
How can I find the Conway Twitty album "I Love You More Today? Is it still In Print? If you have an answer, let me know por favor.
Garrett - Phenix City, Al
Marta, I tried going to the direct YouTube address that you have sent. I could pull up the song itself, but I couldn't find Conway's version When I tried typing it in the youtube search box it just gave me all of his other songs. If you know what page number in the listings it would be on, or anywhere else that has it for sure, or if there is anyone else that knows the about this please let me know I appreciate it. God Bless!!!Garrett - Phenix City, Al
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5z4lmF8PNGc :)))Marta - Szczecin, Poland
Does Anybody know where I can find Conway Twitty's version of proud Mary? If you do, please tell me. I have looked on the web and can not find it anywhere.
Thanks,
Garrett Miles
Garrett - Phenix City, Al
First of all, I'd like to say the lyrics to the second verse are as follows; "Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis, pumped a lot of 'pane or 'pain down in New Orleans." I used to think it was "Pumped a lot of tank down in New Orleans." Later, I heard a friend of mine's son singing the CCR version, and he said it was 'pane. Then I listened closely to Creedence Clearwater Revival's version, and it was clear that Fogerty was saying "'Paine" or "'pain," and not "tank as i thought it was, or even "'tane" as Ike & Tina Turner sang. So I asked several people what they thought it was and they all said it was "'pane" as a contracted form of propane. I have listened to the lyrical content of the song and clearly do not think it is about smoking dope. I have never heard heroine called "Pain." The song is about a riverboat going down the Mississippi. Now that i got that point clear, Yesterday I was reading some of the comments on this site, and I heard someone mension that Conway Twitty sang the song. I had heard that a long time ago, but had forgotten about it. I was wondering if you knew how or where i could find it, because I have looked all over the internet and I can't find it If you read this, and you have an answer, please let me know.Garrett - Phenix City, Al
To the person who made the comment about hating Tina's version - that's fine if you don't like it - Don't listen to it - But your excuse for a joke about Ike hitting her is apalling. Grow up a little!Harry - Myrtle Beach, Sc
OOPS! That should be JOHN Fogerty.Marion - Houston, Texas, Tx
I am probably much older than any of you who posted comments and believe I can safely say have known Jim Fogerty and his music much longer than you have. Do not presume to second guess this great artist. He says what he means and means what he says. Instead of arguing about the words of any song, why not just buy the sheet music?Marion - Houston, Texas, Tx
I'm surprised most people don't draw the connection this song makes to marijuana. "Proud Mary keep on burnin?" I would say that is a pretty obvious reference to smoking some "Mary Jane"Kevin - Chicago, Il
I hate Tina Turner's version of this song. It's prolly the reason Ike beat her,"Damn Tina you messed that song up *Smack* Don't do it again!"Kris - Wichita, Ks
I'm doing Memorial Tribute's in memory of an uncle who passed away that who used to work
on the river as a deckhand years ago. My
husband John has worked on the river for
31 years. He's a Captain on a lineboat.
He thought this song "Proud Mary" would
be the perfect song to put on the Memorial.
We always loved this song. It's a good song
and I don't know why people have to talk
trash about such a great song! Marge,BG,IA.
Marge - Blue Grass, Ia
i used to think it was about the boat queen mary when i was younger.David - Wilson, Ny
I am disappointed to realize that I have had the lyrics wrong all these years - I thought the song said "pumped a lot of tang' down in New Orleans" as in poontang. Damn! I'm still gonna sing it that way, it's much more interesting that-a-way!
A great song sung by anyone is still a great song!!!
Gare - St. Paul, Mn
It kills me when someone posts 'so and so did an awesome cover of this song'.I mean why would you want to hear anyone cover this song when you can hear CCR doing it? I mean hell, Fogerty himself is still playing in a traveling band and doing this song.Even Tina Turner sounded like crap trying to do this song.Mark - Byrdstown, Tn
John always had a book with him in which he wrote down feelings or experiences he made on journeys or something. He wrote lyrics with the help of this book.David - Baden-baden, Germany
"Proud Mary" is number 8 in the list called "Sounds at the Speed of Music: 50 Rock Anthems at 100 kph"Street Strategist - Hong Kong, Hong Kong
On an NPR interview, Fogerty was asked to pronounce the words "turning" and "burning". Fogerty was amused when the host was shocked that John didn't pronounce them "toinin'" and "boinin'". He said he sang the song in a cajun accent, which, being fron Northern California, he had to fake.Ken - Louisville, Ky
I read that John Fogerty wrote "Proud Mary" because he was happy about having been rejected for service in Vietnam. Can't believe everything you read though.Linda - Omaha, Ne
Ike and Tina Turner didn't ruin the song, it's just different but very good also.Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
This is a great song. It tells of a riverboat sailing down the Mississippi River with the paddlewheels going full force. Ike&Tina Turner ruined the song by speeding up the beat and now every musician follows the Turner way instead of doing it the way John Fogerty wrote it, the way the son was meant to be.Paul - Warren, Mi
Cool song. nice rhythmn. i danced to this song in my jazz class last year.Caitlin - Upper Township, Nj
I loved this song when it came out and still love it now, the version of Ike and Tina Turner is also very good. I can't say which one I prefer because they are so different.Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
Heroin is called Boy & Coke is called girl because heroin or Dope = (D) & Coke = (C)
(its code/slang) because a boy has a 'D'
a girl has a 'C' (think of private parts)

the word "Man" doesn't fit the equation
Jeff - Staten Island, Ny
I saw Fogerty in Chrlotte, NC. He's still doin' it. The "Man" in this song is heroin. "Workin for the man every night and day." If you want proof, watch the movie 'Ray' with Jamie Fox. They refer to coke as the lady, and heroin as boy. The river is referred to in thousands of rock songs. If you listen to any classic rock song and replace any word relating to water with heroin, they all make sense.Joe - Charlotte, Nc
Yeah I saw him in Melbourne too. Terrific sing/songwriter and an excellent performer. Every there loved the entire show and was going crazy. I'm 14Mitchell - Melbourne, Australia
Just saw Fogerty two nights ago in Melbourne and when he did this song the crowd was jumping around and acting real crazy which is a surprise cause the crowd was made up of people from 15 to 75! Mind you we were going crazy to just about every song, incredible concert. If you get a chance to see him live, take it.Jolene - Melbourne, Australia
It's a big person who can admit when they are wrong. I am (was) wrong. Straight from the horse's mouth:

"Sometimes I write words to songs because they sound cool to sing. Sometimes the listener doesn't understand what I'm singing because I'm dedicated to singing the vowel, having fun with the word sounds coming out of my mouth. `Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis, pumped a lot of pain down in New Orleans,' is a good example. I think Tina Turner sang `tane' instead of `pain,' as in a contracted form of octane. But I knew what she meant," Fogerty said.
Diane - Nyc, Ny
the lyric is pumped a lot of 'pane (propane) gasoline. it's funny how people project themselves on to perfectly harmless and obvious song lyrics.Diane - Nyc, Ny
there is an outstanding version of Proud Mary
(country style) by Conway Twitty
from LP "I Love You More Today".
I do have it in MP3

Benitez
Jose - Barcelona, Spain
This is #155 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.Ross - Independence, Mo
One reason people thought CCR was from Louisiana was the song on the flip side of this single, "Born On The Bayou". In fact, CCR had orginally intended that song to be the A-side, but U.S. disc jockeys kept playing "Proud Mary" so often that the record company made it a "double A side" 45, as was sometimes done in the 1960's.Ken - Louisville, Ky
Good job, Cody. It seems to some people that every single song has some hidden meaning. Just listen to the music.Rob - Novi, Mi
Best CCR song. Hands down. Well in my opinion at least. My dad is a really big Credence fan and listens to them a lot, so I got to know them well too. But I always though this was the best one.Kelly - Burbank, Ca
I always associated "pumped a lot of pain" with cranking heroin.

I think it's great that the good songwriters' lyrics are open to interpretation.
Michael - Toronto, United States
i believe the lyric goes "pumped a lot of 'tain', down in new orleans", as opposed to "pumped a lot of 'pain', down in new orleans". it would make more sense that one could pump "tain" ( slang for octane, or gasolene ) at a low paying job, that would be compared to washing dishes. that, i can see being pumped, "pain" on the other hand, not so much.Johnny - Hilo, Hi
Why does everyone want songs to be about marijuana? Sometimes its not about pot guys. Come on.Cody - San Antonio, Tx
Trenyce sang this song very well on "American Idol."Jude - Db, Ca