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Killing for the Man Every Night and Day

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There is a movie out called Proud Mary, but it's not about a riverboat. It stars Taraji P. Henson as Mary the hitwoman.

You can't copyright a title, so all John Fogerty could do is kvetch on Twitter. His statement reads:

There is a movie in current release called "Proud Mary." I don't know much about it other than this. The main character is a black woman who is also an assassin. And apparently, her name is Mary.

I wrote the song "Proud Mary" 50 years ago, and I was very excited to have written such a good song. In fact, it was my very first good song.

My songs are special to me. Precious. So it irks me when people seek to capitalize on the popularity of my music and the good will it has earned with the public for their own financial gain. Over the years, I have often found myself directly opposed to these uses.

This movie has nothing to do with me, or my song. They simply picked the title and wrote a completely fictitious story around it.

Back in the day, I had decided that I needed to become more professional, more organized about my songwriting efforts.

I bought a little notebook and after few days, I wrote down the words Proud Mary. It was the very first entry in this book. At first, I didn't even know what those words meant.

No one ever asked me about using my song this way, or even about the meaning of Proud Mary. The movie poster has my lyrics changed to read, "killing for the Man every night and day" 

There are number of storylines here. First of all, this isn't the first time a movie has blatantly appropriated a famous song title. The 1999 movie American Pie and lesser-known 2012 flick Jack And Diane both did it, but they didn't use the songs in the movies. Tina Turner's version of "Proud Mary" appears in both the film and the trailer.

Fogerty lost the rights to "Proud Mary" and his other CCR songs back in 1972 in a disastrous deal that kept him from recording for about a decade and made him very reluctant to play those songs for fear that one of his sworn enemies will profit. But even if an artist gives up rights to a song, very often they can still control its use in a movie, since synching it to pictures is another kettle of fish. But there is another version of "Proud Mary" that is equally famous, and more appropriate for the film - the one by Ike & Tina Turner. So Fogerty had no say in the matter.

A trick of the trade it recording new versions of songs for movies to get better control of the royalties. That's what Tina Turner did back in 1993 when she did her own version of "Proud Mary" for her movie What's Love Got To Do With It? Had she just used the famous version she recorded with Ike, he could have profited from the film. The best we can tell, this is the version used in the Proud Mary movie, so Tina is likely earning some royalties along with the song's publisher.

Not surprisingly, Proud Mary isn't getting very good reviews, with a 24 rating on Rotten Tomatoes last we checked.

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