This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #405: Fortunate Son by Credence Clearwater Revival.
“Fortunate Son” was written by singer John Fogarty and was released in 1969. U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was in full swing at the time. In order to put together a fighting force to travel to Asia, the U.S. government re-instituted the Draft. For anyone unaware of what that means, it was a way of forcing civilians into the Armed Forces. If you received a letter stating that you had been drafted into the Armed Forces, you were legally obligated to report to duty. Failure to report when summoned could result in jail time and other related penalties. One of the most famous cases of “refusal to report” was by boxer, Muhammed Ali. When questioned by reporters as to why he was refusing to allow himself to be drafted, he replied that he had no quarrel with the VietCong. Furthermore, he pointed to the inequities of the Draft. He stated that it was predominantly the poor and the racialized who were being sent off to fight in Vietnam. Ali ended up being stripped of his Championship title because of his stand against the Draft. While Ali was holding his press conferences, a draft letter was delivered to John Fogarty. While Fogarty questioned the purpose of going off to a war he felt was more politically-motivated than it was a security issue, what bothered him even more was the seeming unfairness of how the Draft was unfolding. Not only were the poor and racial minorities filling a majority of the call-ups, the reverse was becoming true for the upper class. It seemed to Fogarty that if you had enough money and enough political connections then, “personal deferments” were easy to come by and one was able to buy his way out of active service. In particular, Fogarty was watching with interest as a political union was formed by the marriage of Julie Nixon (daughter of Richard Nixon) and David Eisenhauer (son of President Dwight D. Eisenhauer). It became the inspiration behind the line in “Fortunate Son” where Fogarty sneers, “I ain’t no senator’s son!”
One of the most famous men to acquire a “personal deferment” via his wealth and family connections was a New York Real Estate Developer named Donald Trump. While Trump was not the initial inspiration for “Fortunate Son”, he certainly became the poster boy for the song when he decided to use it as a “hype” song during campaign stops in the most recent US Presidential election. The song, “Fortunate Son” rails against the inequity of class when it came to serving America’s military interests abroad. The organizers of Trump’s rallies seemed oblivious to the idea that the song was, actually, against everything Trump stood for and was espousing. Eventually, Fogarty took out a cease-and-desist order and stopped Trump from using the song at his events.
“Fortunate Son” was one of the best-selling songs that Credence Clearwater Revival released. It sold millions of copies and has gone on to be one of the defining anti-war anthems of the modern era in U.S. history. C.C.R. was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Their song, “Fortunate Son” was enshrined into the U.S. Library of Congress because of its cultural impact. Despite the fact that the Draft was cancelled and recruitment into the Armed Forces is, once again, voluntary, the fact remains that membership in the U.S. Armed Forces is comprised primarily of those on the lower half of the socio-economic scale. What John Fogarty was quoted as saying when “Fortunate Son” was originally released in 1969, still holds true today, “There’s an old saying about rich men making war and poor men having to fight them.”…..especially true if “you ain’t no senator’s son!” Ladies and gentlemen, here is “Fortunate Son” by C.C.R. Enjoy.
The link to the music video for Fortunate Son by Credence Clearwater Revival can be found here.
The link to a news interview regarding how Fogarty felt about Donald Trump using Fortunate Son at his campaign rallies, can be found here.
A link to the John Fogarty website can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their website can be found here.