Along with such films as "Apocalypse Now" and "The Deer Hunter," John Fogerty's song "Who'll Stop the Rain" remains one of the cultural touchstones of the Vietnam era.
In the 1970 hit for his band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fogerty spoke about the helplessness millions felt watching the body count in a war that seemed to them pointless and heartbreaking.
Long as I remember the rain been comin' down
Clouds of myst'ry pourin' confusion on the ground.
Good men through the ages, tryin' to find the sun;
And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain.
Now Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Fogerty is back with a new song that expresses similar regret, this time over the nation's involvement in Iraq. Titled "Deja Vu (All Over Again)," it was turned into DreamWorks/Geffen Records this week and should be released soon to radio stations.
Did you hear 'em talkin' 'bout it on the radio.
Did you try to read the writing on the wall.
Did that voice inside you say I've heard it all before
It's like deja vu all over again.
"For anyone old enough to have lived through the Vietnam War, the thing in Iraq just seems spookily reminiscent," Fogerty said by phone this week from Missouri while on tour. "I just keep thinking, 'Gee, we aren't going to do this, are we? We're not that dumb, are we?' "
Several high-profile pop figures, including the Beastie Boys and Lenny Kravitz, released protest songs around the time of the Iraq invasion last year, but they seemed rushed and obvious.
Only Merle Haggard's "That's the News" last summer had an eloquent edge, chiding President Bush and the media for declaring the war over even though the dying continued.
Fogerty is the first high-profile artist since Haggard to speak about Iraq in a way that feels both thoughtful and evocative. With acoustic guitar touches that make it seem a virtual sequel to "Who'll Stop the Rain," the record -- whose title is an affectionate reference to the phrase coined by baseball great Yogi Berra -- serves as a link between the wars.
What gives "Who'll Stop the Rain" and "Deja Vu (All Over Again)" their power is their relatively understated tones. Unlike Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," this isn't Bush-bashing. It's more sadness than anger.
Fogerty said he resisted writing a song about Iraq because the theme seemed too obvious. But one day last fall the words just came to him when he was working on the new album.
"I was planning to write a swamp-rock kind of song on that day, but the first line of the song just came, and I knew right away what I was thinking about," he says. "I heard the melody and the tone of the guitar all at once. I grabbed an acoustic guitar and had the chorus and the first verse within an hour and a half."
It took months, however, for him to complete the tune, whose second verse carries its most powerful punch:
One by one I see the old ghosts rising
Stumblin' 'cross Big Muddy
Where the light gets dim.
Day after day another mama's crying
She's lost her precious child
To a war that has no end.
While the song stands on its own, its emotional power may be greater for those familiar with other Fogerty-written Creedence hits: "Who'll Stop the Rain" and "Fortunate Son," both at least in part about Vietnam, and "Run Through the Jungle," a song about the gun proliferation in the U.S. that millions came to associate with Vietnam.
One of the greatest American rock groups, Creedence featured songwriter Fogerty on lead guitar and vocals along with bassist Stu Cook, drummer Doug Clifford and rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty, John's older brother.
Before breaking up in 1972, the East Bay band registered a remarkable string of hits -- songs, also including "Proud Mary" and "Bad Moon Rising," that combined social observation with the energy and economy of '50s roots rock.
One of Fogerty's strengths as a songwriter has always been his ability to cast tunes in a timeless and universal vein, something he learned from the folk music of his youth.
In the opening lines of "Deja Vu (All Over Again)," he speaks of first hearing about the Iraqi invasion plans and asks, "Did you try to read the writing on the wall."
By the end, he makes the direct parallel to Vietnam by referring to the memorial in Washington, D.C.: "Did you stop to read the writing at the Wall."
The veteran rocker, who lives with his wife and two children in Los Angeles, said he visited the Vietnam Memorial with his family and was deeply moved.
If released during Creedence's remarkable commercial and creative run in the late '60s and early '70s, "Deja Vu (All Over Again)" would have been an automatic add on rock radio stations.
But Fogerty, like other veteran rockers such as Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, is not assured airplay in an era dominated by hip-hop and teen pop.
There's also the question of whether stations will feel comfortable playing a protest song during an election campaign.