John Fogerty – The Old Man Down The Road

From his 1984 album Centerfield, the song peaked at #10 on Billboards Hot 100 chart in March of 1985. Fogerty keeps his same musical style.

From songfacts.

This song deals with John Fogerty’s extensive legal troubles, which weighed on him for over a decade. An early contract he signed forced him to relinquish the rights to his Creedence Clearwater Revival songs but at the same time obligated him to keep recording. After the band broke up, he was so disillusioned with the industry that he refused to play the Creedence songs, in part because so many of them were joyful tunes, and he was feeling anything but.

“The Old Man Down The Road” is a depiction of the Devil using imagery found in many blues songs where a Faustian deal is struck. This is how Fogerty felt about his contract: he gave up his songs (and to some extent, his soul) so he could make music, and now he was paying the price.

“It tells the story about a man standing in your way with a suitcase covered in rattlesnake hide, eyes as black as coal,” Fogerty said. In his case, this demon is the record company.

Saul Zaentz, who owned the publishing rights to the Creedence Clearwater Revival songs, sued Fogerty, claiming “The Old Man Down The Road” sounded too much like the 1970 Creedence song “Run Through The Jungle.” This bizarre lawsuit may have been the first time an artist was sued for plagiarizing himself. The case went to a jury and was eventually dismissed in Fogerty’s favor, although appeals kept the case alive until 1993. A frustrated Fogerty even refused to play any Creedence songs on his 1986 tour.

During the trial, Fogerty at one point was trying to explain that there are only so many ways to play Swamp Rock. After a demonstration on his guitar, he said, “Yeah, it’s the same interval. What am I supposed to do, get an inoculation?” In a 1997 interview with Goldmine, Fogerty said: “I proved that, no, I didn’t copy myself, I invented something new that really sounds a lot like me. Do you find fault with Elvis for sounding like Elvis? When McCartney sounds like McCartney or Dylan sounds like Dylan? No one else ever had to go through that.”

Fogerty had quite a catharsis the first time he heard this song on the radio. He was driving in Northern California from El Cerrito to Berkeley on the Bayshore Freeway when he heard it come on. To him, it represented vindication from his oppressors in the industry. Fogerty told the radio show Soundcheck: “I was overjoyed, and I said, ‘Take that you old man!'”
This song not only revived Fogerty’s career, but it also gave him a presence on MTV where he gained a whole new following. The video was directed by Mick Haggerty, who did many of the Hall & Oates clips.

 

The Old Man Down The Road

He take the thunder from the mountain
He take a lightning from the sky
He bring a strong man to his begging knee
He make the young girl’s mama cry.
You got to hidey-hide
You got to jump and run
You got to hidey-hidey-hide
The old man is down the road…
He got the voices speakin’ riddles
He got the eye as black as coal
He got a suitcase covered with rattlesnake hide
And he stands right in the road.
You got to hidey-hide
You got to jump up run away
You got to hidey-hidey-hide
The old man is down the road.
He make the river call your lover
He make the barking of the hound
Put a shadow ‘cross the window
When the old man comes around.
You got to hidey-hide
You got to jump and run again
You got to hidey-hidey-hide
The old man is down the road
The old man is down the road.
You got to, you got to, you got to hidey-hidey-hide

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