What's it feel like to write an instant classic like "Proud Mary"?
Well, bingo. Believe it or not, "Proud Mary" happened minutes after I discovered my honorable discharge from the army. I turned a little cartwheel right there on the lawn and went inside and started writing. And within an hour, I had started with the chords that make up the beginning and these words, "Left a good job in the city, working for the man…." I sat there almost shaking. Oh, my goodness! I felt in my bones that I had written a really great song.
After Creedence's breakup and your legal battles over your songs, you were so enraged you stopped releasing music for a decade. How should a man let go of anger?
If you can, let go of it right away. Your past grabs you by the shorts, and that's just not a good thing. It's crippling. My life had flatlined. This big horizontal line. My wife, Julie, insisted I go see a shrink, and almost immediately, my line started going up.
So what advice would you give to the younger you?
Oh, Lord, I would've told that guy that any agreement you make with anyone, get it in writing. And also, the troubles you encounter will come from surprising places. You're always looking far away for someone coming over the hill, and not paying attention to the ones that are close to you.
What did you learn about the value of hard work?
I had a paper route in the fifth grade, so I had money in my pocket for the first time. I bought my first guitar with my paper-route money. When I got a little older, my parents had split up, and I got a job working at the Healdsburg Beach for 50 cents a day, and I remember my dad was so proud of me. Eventually I took that money and bought a tape recorder. And it was one of those add-a-track things you could overdub with. That was one of the most meaningful things in my musical life. It taught me how to harmonize, how to make up guitar parts. I spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours working on it.
And I got it because I bought it myself.
How does a man keep in touch with his roots?
I still think of myself as middle-class, even lower-middle-class, but if somebody walked out of my driveway and looked at the fancy European car, they'd probably laugh at me. It's kind of a hoot because my mindset is still the kid with the paper route. I still relate to the world that way. Obviously, I've been able to rise above my childhood economic level, but my brain hasn't changed.
Why do you always wear flannel?
Oh, the wearing of the plaid. I don't want to call it a uniform – there's a certain dignity to it. It describes me, without me having to say a word.
When should a man take a political stand?
This is America, for crying out loud. This is our privilege and our birthright. Even though I've come out and said who I'm for every once in a while, I've been a little bit wary of celebrities chiming in. All they had to do was look at the misguided steps of Jane Fonda. I remember seeing the picture of her sitting on the cannon, whatever it was, with Charlie. I thought, "Uh-oh, what publicist sent this one out?"
What's the secret to a good comeback?
That's all I am nowadays. I'm kind of joking. You know you've heard a lot of people say, "Find something you love because then you'll never actually have to go to work." I'd add to that and say, "Your effort should ring true. There should be no question that this work represents me." If you can do that, the rest should take care of itself.