For John Fogerty, this July 4th will mean a few things besides celebrating America's independence: His first live-audience concert since the pandemic. His first airplane ride in many months. And his first chance to perform his latest greatest song, "Weeping in the Promised Land."
"I think I will get emotional," the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer said of Sunday's performance at Mystic Lake Casino amphitheater. "I felt that way last year, and there have been a few Fourth of Julys that were extra meaningful, shall we say.
"I'm an American. I really love my country. Those of us who tend to be critical ... it's all part of wanting the best for your country and fellow citizens."
Released in January, "Weeping in the Promised Land" is not only his first new song in eight years but a title he's had in mind for more than 30 years: "It sounded very biblical to me and also sorrowful."
He wrote and recorded the song about three years ago, but wasn't happy with it. Then George Floyd's murder by a Minneapolis police officer "hit me like being punched in the gut. I now understood what weeping in the promised land meant," Fogerty said.
He rerecorded the song in the familiar swamp-rock vibe of his revered band Creedence Clearwater Revival, but after hearing the arrangement, his wife, Julie, suggested a gospel approach. So the singer retreated to his studio.
"I put my phone on the piano and hit record," he recalled this month from Los Angeles. "I thought I'd noodle for 15 minutes. Instead I played this reinterpretation. It came out whole."
On piano instead of his usual guitar, with a gospel choir joining in, Fogerty sings about water in a new well poisoned with lies, Satan's dark angels falling from the skies, and a forked-tongue pharaoh shouting down the medicine man.
"Weeping in the Promised Land" may be Fogerty's most pointed social commentary song in a career full of them. Think: "Who'll Stop the Rain," "Bad Moon Rising" and above all "Fortunate Son."
While he's comfortable tackling politics in songs and interviews, the left-leaning rock hero tries to keep commentary out of his concerts.
"I'm an entertainer. I want everyone to have a good time," he said. "I'm humbled by the fact that people know what my intent was, and they may disagree with that part but still enjoy the music. I encourage that."
Sometimes politics pulls Fogerty in, however. Last fall, President Donald Trump used "Fortunate Son" as his exit song at campaign rallies. Fogerty sent cease-and-desist letters to the Trump campaign and even joined TikTok solely to chide Trump for playing the tune.
It wasn't just the unauthorized use, it was a case of misunderstanding the song. A proud member of the U.S. Army Reserve during the Vietnam War, Fogerty had sung about not being a "millionaire's son" who could avoid military service.
"What's that they say? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Fogerty said. "People will get different meanings out of the same performance."
Like the people who listen to "Bad Moon Rising" and hear "there's a bathroom on the right." He chuckled heartily.
Cautious about COVID
At 76, the California native is concerned about COVID.
"I'm very cautious about everything," he said firmly. "I'm playing some dates. It's a timid step toward normalcy."
Even though he's vaccinated, the L.A. resident wears a mask when walking through restaurants. He will wear one on his flights to and from the Twin Cities.
He's comfortable going onstage but won't attend a concert or even a baseball game, a sport he loves and honored with 1985's "Centerfield," his biggest solo hit.
"Some stadiums are 100% [crowd capacity]. That surprised me," said the avid fan, who has been watching games on TV. "I haven't been seeing the cardboard cutouts recently. I'm going to miss those guys. Ha-ha-ha."
During quarantine, Fogerty has kept busy running, hiking and streaming performances with his family band, featuring daughter Kelsy and sons Tyler and Shane (who tours with him). In November, the family released an album, "Fogerty's Factory" (a play on CCR's 1970 LP "Cosmo's Factory") featuring stripped down Fogerty favorites as well as covers of "City of New Orleans" and "Lean on Me."
Before recording the latter tune, Fogerty launched into one of those social commentaries that he usually avoids in front of crowds.
"We are living in a remarkable time. Protesters all across America and around the world are standing up against the evil that is racism. I'm so proud of the young people of this generation for reminding us all who we are. Now, some people will say, 'Now, John, I wish you wouldn't get political.' Kind of like 'shut up and dribble.' But this isn't about politics; it's about human rights, it's about empathy, it's about compassion."
Fans at Mystic Lake can expect to hear solo material like "Centerfield" as well as lots of Creedence tunes. To the singer-songwriter, they're all John Fogerty songs.
He's proud of "Proud Mary," 2013's "Wrote a Song for Everyone" and "Weeping in the Promised Land," pieces that live up to his high standards. Those tunes are not how he wants to be remembered, though.
"I want to be remembered as a good family man. That's the most important thing to me. That's how I guide myself. When somebody proposes a situation to me, I can almost see my family standing there: How are they going to feel about that?"
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719
When: 8 p.m. Sun.
Where: Mystic Lake Casino amphitheater, Prior Lake.
Tickets: $39 and up, ticketmaster.com