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Music

Hear Doug Clifford's isolated drums on Creedence Clearwater's 'Fortunate Son'

@SamWKemp

Few songs capture the spirit of the Vietnam anti-war movement like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Fortunate Son’. The 1970 Willy and The Poor Boys cut is a masterclass in American anti-imperialism underpinned by a slick 4/4 groove played by the brilliant Doug Clifford. Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can hear Clifford’s isolated drum track in all its glory.

‘Fortunate Son’ is as much a worker’s song as it is an anthem of defiance. Feverishly anti-government, the track betrays both Clifford and his bandmate John Fogerty’s attitude towards class and America’s reverence for the draft. To dodge being shipped off to Vietnam, both enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1966 and were discharged in 1968. Opening up about the song with Rolling Stone, Fogerty once said that the song had more to do with the “unfairness of class than war itself. It’s the old saying about rich men making war and poor men having to fight them.”

It’s unsurprising, then, that Creedence Clearwater Revival treated President Nixon with suspicion. Indeed, Fogerty believed that those close to the President were being excused from military service. It’s for this reason that ‘Fortunate Son’ fixes its critical eye on the folks “born silver spoon” rather than Vietnam veterans in general. Rather than attacking soldiers with no choice other than to fight and possibly die, Fogerty, Clifford and co draw attention to the corruption and nepotism at the heart of government and how money can allow a man to buy his freedom from death itself.

In the decades following the release of ‘Fortunate Son,’ the track’s anti-patriotic meaning got lost somewhat. It came to form the soundtrack to an entire sub-genre of distinctly patriotic Vietnam War films. From Forrest Gump to The Post, there are countless occasions in which the sound of Clifford’s propulsive drums blends with the swirling roar of an American chopper.

Perhaps even more bewildering was Wrangler Jeans’ decision to use the song in one of their commercials in the 2000s, taking the first two lines, “Some folks are born, made to wave the flag, Ooh, that red, white and blue,” to conjure up a sense of ranch-trotting nationall pride. America’s ability to turn an item of clothing into a symbol of national values never fails to amaze me.

If you haven’t already, make sure you check out the isolated track of Clifford’s drums above.

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