"Fortunate Son" is a song by American rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival released on their fourth studio album, Willy and the Poor Boys in 1969. It was released as a single, together with "Down on the Corner", in September 1969. This song reached #14 on the United States charts on 22 November 1969, the week before Billboard changed its methodology on double-sided hits. The tracks combined to climb to #9 the next week, on the way to peaking at #3 three more weeks later, on 20 December 1969. It won the RIAA Gold Disc award in December 1970. Pitchfork Media placed it at number 17 on its list of "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s". Rolling Stone placed it at #99 on its "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list. In 2014, the song was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
The song is a counterculture era anti-war anthem, criticizing militant patriotic behavior and those who support the use of military force without having to "pay the costs" themselves (either financially or by serving in a wartime military). The song, released during the Vietnam War, is not explicit in its criticism of that war in particular, but the clear attacks on the elite classes (the families that give birth to "fortunate sons") of United States and their withdrawal from the costs of nationalistic imperialism are easy to contextualize to that conflict. The song was inspired by the wedding of David Eisenhower, the grandson of President Dwight David Eisenhower, to Julie Nixon, the daughter of President Richard Nixon, in 1968. The song's author and singer, John Fogerty, told Rolling Stone:
Julie Nixon was hanging around with David Eisenhower, and you just had the feeling that none of these people were going to be involved with the war. In 1968, the majority of the country thought morale was great among the troops, and eighty percent of them were in favor of the war. But to some of us who were watching closely, we just knew we were headed for trouble.
Fogerty has since gone on to explain more about the initial origin of the song, while on the television show The Voice:
The thoughts behind this song - it was a lot of anger. So it was the Vietnam War going on... Now I was drafted and they're making me fight, and no one has actually defined why. So this was all boiling inside of me and I sat down on the edge of my bed and out came "It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no senator's son!" You know, it took about 20 minutes to write the song.
The song has been widely used to protest military actions as well as elitism in a broader sense in Western society, particularly in the United States; as an added consequence of its popularity, it has even been used in completely unrelated situations, such as to advertise blue jeans.
It attracted criticism when Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Zac Brown performed the song together at the November 2014 Concert for Valor in Washington D.C.. Fogerty, a military veteran, defended their song choice.
The song has since been recorded or notably performed by Bob Seger, La Renga, Gordon Downie and the Country of Miracles, Brandi Carlile, Pearl Jam, U2, Sleater-Kinney, Corrosion of Conformity, Death Cab for Cutie, Cat Power, The Dropkick Murphys, 38 Special, Circle Jerks, Jeff B.R.I.C.K. & The Mortiboys, Minutemen, Kid Rock, W.A.S.P., Todd Snider and Patty Griffin, Bruce Springsteen, Santana featuring Scott Stapp, The Ghost Inside and Aloe Blacc. The Screaming Jets recorded a cover of "Fortunate Son" and released it as a B-side to their 1996 single, "Sacrifice". Wyclef Jean's cover of the song was played over the beginning and ending credits of The Manchurian Candidate (2004). Sleater-Kinney also performed a cover of the song, which they dedicated to George W. Bush, during the WedRock benefit concert on April 28, 2004. Fogerty recorded a version of the song with Foo Fighters for his 2013 album Wrote a Song for Everyone(Forced Entry). October 12, 2015, Dustin Monk and James Dupré covered the song with songwriters on The Voice (U.S. season 9), Australian-American rock band The Dead Daisies covered the song on their 2016 album Make Some Noise. The song was also covered for the Bioshock Infinite game soundtrack and can be heard during gameplay. On November 13th, 2016, on The X Factor (Australia season 8). contestant 'Davey Woder', covered the song.
The song is used in the introduction sequence of the game Battlefield Vietnam where it is among a list of in-game playable tracks. The song was also used during the E3 announcement trailer for Battlefield: Bad Company 2: Vietnam and is also the main menu song for the game and plays mid-game in vehicle radios. "Fortunate Son" was also included in the game Call of Duty: Black Ops at the start of the level S.O.G. Its use is an anachronism, as the level S.O.G. takes place during the Battle of Khe Sanh, a year before the song is released. In Homefront, the song is played during the chapter "Golden Gate". A cover of the song was released as DLC for Rock Band in 2007. The first appearance of the song came out before real instruments were integrated. The original version was made available to download on March 1, 2011, for use in Rock Band 3 PRO mode which takes advantage of the use of a real guitar / bass guitar, along with standard MIDI-compatible electronic drum kits in addition to vocals. The master recording by CCR was made available as well in 2010. The song is also playable on basic controllers in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.
The song is briefly played as both its original recording and a solo a cappella rendition, sung by Jessy Carolina, in BioShock Infinite. As the game is set in 1912, the presence of the song, which is sung by a slave as a spiritual, indicates that time travel is at work in the plot. This is later confirmed when players discover a "tear" in space and time; the Creedence Clearwater Revival version of the song can be heard playing through this tear.
The song is featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto V on the in-game radio station Los Santos Rock Radio, though the song is only available for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC versions of the game. An instrumental version of the song is also played as background music in Indianapolis 500 Legends. The song is also featured on the soundtrack for MLB The Show: 09 on PS3.
The song is featured in the 2016 video games Mafia III, where its use is an anachronism, as the game takes place a year before the song was released, as well as Watch Dogs 2.
"Fortunate Son" is featured in the film Forrest Gump, and is the introduction song in the scene where Forrest and Bubba are shown flying in a U.S. Army UH-1C Huey Helicopter, to the combat zone, in South Vietnam, c. 1968, in the Vietnam War. Most recently, "Fortunate Son," performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival, is featured in the film Little White Lies, called the French Big Chill, in part for its use of American rock classics.
The song also appeared in the film Live Free or Die Hard.
The song also appeared in the film War Dogs.
A cover version of the song performed by Wyclef Jean appears on the soundtrack of the 2004 version of the film The Manchurian Candidate and is the opening track of the closing credits.
This song is covered by the band Jeffster! from the spycom Chuck on season 3 episode 9 "Chuck Versus the Beard".
The original CCR version plays over the closing credits in the 2012 film Battleship.
American Dad! episode In Country...Club featured the song when Stan brings his son to a Vietnam War reenactment. The song however was not credited.
The song was included on the soundtrack album for the 2016 film Suicide Squad.
A highly edited version was used in a Wrangler commercial because John Fogerty "long ago signed away legal control of his old recordings to Creedence's record label, Fantasy Records." In this case, the advertiser eventually stopped using the song, as Fogerty related in a later interview:
Yes, the people that owned Fantasy Records also owned all my early songs, and they would do all kinds of stuff I really hated in a commercial way with my songs. ... Then one day somebody from the L.A. Times actually bothered to call me up and ask me how I felt, and I finally had a chance to talk about it. And I said I'm very much against my song being used to sell pants. ... So my position got stated very well in the newspaper, and lo and behold, Wrangler to their credit said, "Wow, even though we made our agreement with the publisher, the owner of the song, we can see now that John Fogerty really hates the idea", so they stopped doing it.