The Meaning of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”

“Bad Moon Rising” is not just one of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s (CCR) most renowned songs, but it’s also a rock and roll canon standard. When listening closely to the lyrics, “Bad Moon” offers a significant message written and performed exclusively by soloist John Fogerty. The plot of The Devil and Daniel Webster, a 1941 film based on the 1936 short story of the same name, inspired Fogerty. The plot revolves around Jabez Stone, a poor farmer who strikes a bargain with the devil, known as Mr. Scratch, in order to save his land and crops, and in the process sells his soul. Throughout the film, chaos reigns, including an offer from the devil to extend the contract in exchange for Stone’s son’s soul. According to Fogerty, the imagery in the song is inspired by the film, specifically one sequence. “At one point in the movie, there was a huge hurricane,” Fogerty told Rolling Stone in 1993. “Everyone’s crops and homes have been destroyed.” Boom. Next door is the guy’s field where he struck a bargain with the devil, and his corn is still straight up six feet. That was the image in my head. “I exclaimed, ‘Holy mackerel!'”

As Fogerty sings, “I hear hurricanes a-blowin’ / I know the end is comin’ soon / I fear rivers over flowin’ / I hear the voice of rage and ruin.” Though the song is based on the narrative of Daniel Webster, Fogerty adds that the lyrics are about the apocalyptic prophesies that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. “My song was not about Mr. Scratch, nor was it about the deal.” “It was about the apocalypse that was going to befall us,” the singer explained. “I didn’t understand the dichotomy until the band started learning the song. This song has all of these hurricanes and blowing and raging wreckage and all of that, but it’s, I see a dreadful moon rising. Isn’t it a happy-sounding song? At the time, that didn’t worry me.” Despite its foreboding nature, “Bad Moon Rising” went on to become one of CCR’s most memorable successes, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the UK Singles chart, among other places. The song has been covered by several performers over the years, including Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Emmylou Harris.

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