It Ain't Me: CCR's 'Fortunate Son' And Vietnam War Hypocrisy

By | May 19, 2019

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Left: In a photo from 1967, helmets, rifles and jungle boots tell a grim tale of the action fought by the 1st Brigade, 101st airborne paratroopers in Operation Wheeler near Chu Lai. Right: packaging for Danish release of the 'Fortunate Son / Down On The C

Written by John Fogerty, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” is an anti-Vietnam War song that rocks -- which was uncommon. And its catchy refrain of "It ain't me, it ain't me," heard in Forrest Gump and other Vietnam period pieces, presents an easy sing-along that masks its bitterness. While it's certainly addressing the injustice of the war, its criticism is not directed at war or killing -- "Fortunate Son" is a rant directed at Fogerty's fellow Americans. As the generation that endured the draft has aged into the generation that leads the United States, which remains involved in long conflicts overseas, the song's message still resonates today. John Fogerty’s lyrics are clearly about the way in which lower and middle-class families were sent to war by the wealthy during the 1960s.

While "Fortunate Son" is the only CCR hit about the Vietnam War, the band's music as a whole has become an easy way for filmmakers to invoke a Vietnam vibe. A cover of "Suzie Q" plays in Apocalypse Now; a Fogerty re-recording of "Born On The Bayou" plays in Born On The Fourth Of July; and "Green River" opens the movie The Post, the 2017 Best Picture nominee about the Pentagon Papers. 

Fogerty has spoken at length about the anti-Vietnam war meaning behind “Fortunate Son,” and he’s even discussed the "Senator’s son" (actually, a President's grandson) that got his blood boiling before sitting down to pen the track. As poppy as this CCR single is, it’s a blistering anti-war song that’s still applicable.

John Fogerty Ain’t No Senator’s Son

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Even though the song is called “Fortunate Son,” it could just as easily be called “It Ain’t Me.” The lyrics to the track are built around the idea that while narrator John Fogerty has to fight in the Vietnam war he’s not as overtly patriotic as those who get to stay home. Sitting out the war is the privilege of the fortunate, the sons of Senators and millionaires who are happy to wave the flag while shirking the duties of defense that they lay on those who can't get out of being drafted. In fact, Fogerty was drafted into the war in the mid-60s (though he signed up voluntarily on the same day), which gave him extra insight into the plight of the young men being sent to war. 

Throughout the song, with the line "it ain't me," Fogerty exclaims that he’s not a fortunate son, and he’s certainly not a millionaire’s son, which means that he and the people like him will have to go to war. In the zippy track he explains that the only people who can avoid the fight are those born with silver spoons in their mouths. It’s a quick blast of vitriol that makes its point without taking up too much of anyone’s time.