Creedence ‘Green River’: Admit It, You Don’t Know the Lyrics

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Why wasn’t the picture sleeve in green? Asking for a friend…

John Fogerty has a unique way of pronouncing certain words. Take the word “bend,” for instance. When he sings it in his 1970 recording with Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Up Around the Bend,” he extends the word, giving it a hard “e” rather than a soft “e.”

Creedence released the Green River album in 1969, the group’s second of three studio LPs that year, and their first to reach #1. That same year, they began a stretch of Top 5 singles that still rivals any band’s success, including such classic rock favorites as “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “Down on the Corner.” Chances are you’ve heard Fogerty’s 1969 composition, “Green River,” hundreds of times and have sung along to it dozens of times on the car radio. But given Fogerty’s creative imagery and his unique vocal style, do you know the actual lyrics?

The song begins with a great guitar intro and then…

Well, take me back down where cool water flows, yeah… Hmm… knew the beginning but not the “cool water” part…
Let me remember things I love… Pretty much knew that…
Stoppin’ at the log where catfish bite… The “log”??? Really???
Walkin’ along the river road at night,
Barefoot girls dancin’ in the moonlight. Okay, knew both those lines…

I can hear the bullfrog callin’ me. Aced that…
Wonder if my rope’s still hangin’ to the tree…. Kinda sorta knew that part…
Love to kick my feet ‘way down the shallow water. Easy breezy…
Shoefly, dragonfly, get back to your mother.
Pick up a flat rock, skip it across Green River. It all makes sense now.

Up at Cody’s camp I spent my days, oh… Cody’s camp? Seriously?
With flat car riders and cross-tie walkers. Zero confidence now…
Old Cody, Junior took me over,
Said, “You’re gonna find the world is smould’rin’. You’re kidding, right?
And if you get lost come on home to Green River.” Confidence coming back…

Watch the lyric video for “Green River,” to help you fully decipher the great song

Fogerty explains how the song came to be. “When I was quite young, my family would travel up to Winters, California. We had a cabin there and it’s a place where I learned how to swim and how to fish. Of course, dragonflies and other critters were in the mix. A lot of the scenery and those memories made it into the song.

“Right up the street from where I lived was a pharmacy that had a soda fountain. And one of the drinks they would make for you was a Green River. And I stared at the label on that bottle of syrup when I was around eight years old and I said, ‘I’m gonna save that. That’s important.'”

It was released as a double-A-sided single with “Commotion” in July 1969.

Related: A unique “performance” of “Green River”

Bonus video… Watch the band perform their hit on The Andy Williams Show

Fogerty is on tour. Tickets are available here and here. CCR’s great recordings are available in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here.

Greg Brodsky

20 Comments so far

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  1. Noah
    #1 Noah 28 February, 2021, 05:49

    Most overrated band ever. “Unique vocal style”, that’s a very polite way of putting it. Unique ego is more accurate.

    Reply this comment
    • Cheryl
      Cheryl 1 March, 2021, 04:30

      Wow, I take exception to that, Noah. Of course I was 4 and 5 years old when they were at their peak so those memories are special to me. Also the Green River soda reference is another childhood memory as I grew up in Portland, Oregon and I’m pretty sure it was named after a river in Oregon/Washington area.
      I know John Fogerty was an ego on steroids and I hate how he treated his brother, but I separate the people from the music.
      I see your point but I guess memories can color music in different ways to different people.

      Reply this comment
      • Ccrfan
        Ccrfan 1 March, 2021, 17:02

        Fogerty was the only reason why ccr ever was succesful.
        His brother was Saul zaentz’s friend and that was the main reason why they didn’t get along with each other. Of course there was legal battles between saul(and other band members took Saul’s side ) and john.

        Reply this comment
      • Jolly Roger
        Jolly Roger 19 July, 2022, 00:26

        We had Green River soda in Chicago, too. I actually had a bottle of it not too long ago here in Phoenix.

        Reply this comment
    • HiHat
      HiHat 17 July, 2023, 12:43

      Hardly — you try writing a song that lives on fifty years after its release using such simple components.

      In addition, CCR had a great sound, thanks to Fogerty’s soulful voice and swampy detuned guitar.

      I had the good fortune to see them live a few times, and all the shows were among the best I’ve ever seen…

      As Variety said of them, “It all just works, almost at the level of brainwashing…”

      Reply this comment
  2. Da Mick
    #2 Da Mick 28 February, 2021, 15:43

    “Most overrated band ever?” Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but aside from, perhaps, The Beatles, I can’t think of any band’s songs that are more universally immediately recognized, and, more importantly, immediately lift listeners everywhere. They are very possibly the greatest feel-good band of all time.

    Reply this comment
    • Tom9716
      Tom9716 1 March, 2021, 01:06

      I totally agree with the Da Mick.I grew up listening to CCR and loved just about every song. Toe tapping music and interesting lyrics.

      Reply this comment
  3. infmom
    #3 infmom 1 March, 2021, 18:11

    You sure it’s not “Walkin’ along the railroad at night”?

    Reply this comment
    • Greg Brodsky
      Greg Brodsky Author 1 March, 2021, 18:36

      The official lyric video indicates it’s “river road.”

      Reply this comment
      • Richard B Ellenberger
        Richard B Ellenberger 19 July, 2022, 15:41

        I would never claim to be a genius at understanding all the meanings of songs and the lyrics behind them but after a great number of listening’s I had “Green River” down. The way Fogerty describes the origin of the song really resonated with me, brought back my own special childhood memories.
        I was lucky enough to get to see Creedence in March 1969, right before I shipped out to Vietnam. That concert has always stayed with me. They put on a great live show.
        Some time ago I was turned on to a British dance group called “Pan’s People” who did a great performance to “Green River”.

        Reply this comment
  4. beatseeker
    #4 beatseeker 3 March, 2021, 09:02

    greg, if the lyrics puzzle you, then whatever you do-DON’T listen to ”china cat sunflower” by the dead…

    Reply this comment
  5. Norris
    #5 Norris 20 July, 2021, 20:20

    This is great! I thought it was “stopping at the lodge for catfish pie”

    Reply this comment
  6. Hound
    #6 Hound 19 July, 2022, 00:25

    Thanks, CCRFAN. I read John’s book and always wondered what the beef was between those 2. As the Golliwogs, they ere sort of a doo-wop group born too late. That was under Tom’s leadership. Our landlady was the mother of Tom’s first wife back in the late 60s.

    Reply this comment
  7. Eddie Villanova
    #7 Eddie Villanova 16 July, 2024, 14:29

    My mom always thought the bad moon rising phrase was “There’s a bathroom on the right”

    Reply this comment
  8. BMac
    #8 BMac 16 July, 2024, 16:17

    I don’t know where Noah’s brain is – nor do I necessarily want to know – but damn, CCR’s output from ’68 to ’71 is virtually unrivaled. Not just a string of gold singles, but TWO-SIDED hits at that, virtually every one of them. And somewhat ironically, their last single while still together, “Someday Never Comes”, is close to the top of the list of my Creedence favorites, though it didn’t even crack the top 20. Not overrated in the slightest.

    Reply this comment

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