Song of the Day #4,060: ‘The Old Man Down the Road’ – John Fogerty

My final example of (alleged) musical copyright infringement is the curious case of John Fogerty’s ‘The Old Man Down the Road,’ a song he was accused of stealing from… himself.

Fogerty, the lead singer and principal songwriter of Creedence Clearwater Revival, had an acrimonious break-up with the band in 1972 before going solo. He was still tied to a shit-show of a contract with Fantasy Records. His first solo album underperformed, which Fogerty blamed on Fantasy’s lackluster promotion, and he refused to record anything new. Fantasy sued him.

Fogerty escaped Fantasy by signing over the rights to all of his earlier songs, a treasure trove of hits released by Creedence.

In 1985, Fogerty released Centerfield, by far his most successful solo album. Two of its tracks, ‘Mr. Greed’ and ‘Zanz Kant Danz,’ took thinly veiled shots at Saul Zaentz, the owner of Fantasy Records. Zaentz threatened Fogerty with a $140 million defamation lawsuit, prompting Fogerty to retitle the latter song to ‘Vanz Kant Danz’ on subsequent editions of the album.

Fantasy Records then filed suit against Fogerty for plagiarising the CCR song ‘Run Through the Jungle’ on ‘The Old Man Down the Road,’ Centerfield‘s opening track. Yes, they accused him of plagiarising himself.

Fogerty appeared in court with a guitar and demonstrated the differences between the two songs, convincing a jury to decide the case in his favor. I have to believe they also considered the fact that he wrote both songs!

Fogerty tried to recoup more than $1 million in legal fees but was denied by an appeals court on the grounds that the original lawsuit was not frivolous. The case, Fogerty v. Fantasy, made it to the Supreme Court in 1994, where Fogerty prevailed in a 9-0 decision that set a precedent for future copyright lawsuits.

He take a thunder from the mountain
He take a lightning from the sky
He bring a strong man to his begging knee
He make a 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 speak in 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

Ah, you got to, you got to, you got to hidey-hidey-hide

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,060: ‘The Old Man Down the Road’ – John Fogerty

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    That’s a crazy story.

    There are similarities, of course, in the verses, but that’s generally Fogerty’s style. Here is “Run through the Jungle” for those who want to compare:

  2. Peg says:

    How crazy is this!

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