“Fortunate Son” is a song by the American rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival released on their fourth studio album, Willy and the Poor Boys in November 1969. It was previously released as a single, together with “Down on the Corner”, in September 1969. It soon became an anti-war movement anthem; an expressive symbol of the counterculture’s opposition to U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War and solidarity with the soldiers fighting it.
The song reached #14 on the United States charts on November 22, 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 lyrics are not about any fortunate desires – but: “I ain’t no senator’s son, son; It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no“.
The song, released during the peak period of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, is not explicit in its criticism of that war in particular, rather, it “speaks more to the unfairness of class than war itself,” according to its author, John Fogerty. “It’s the old saying about rich men making war and poor men having to fight them.” In 2015, while on the television show The Voice, he also said:
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.
According to his 2015 memoir, Fogerty was thinking about David Eisenhower, the grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who married Julie Nixon, the daughter of then-President-elect Richard Nixon in 1968, when he wrote “Fortunate Son.”
‘Fortunate Son’ wasn’t really inspired by any one event. Julie Nixon was dating David Eisenhower. You’d hear about the son of this senator or that congressman who was given a deferment from the military or a choice position in the military. They seemed privileged and whether they liked it or not, these people were symbolic in the sense that they weren’t being touched by what their parents were doing. They weren’t being affected like the rest of us.
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.