Bad Moon Rising

You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. We’ve both probably used it. But what does Bad Moon Rising really mean? The phrase has been used as a book title and to describe an astrological state, but most often the words are associated with the 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival song by that name.

The song lyrics are simple, straight forward and known to many:

I see the bad moon rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightning
I see bad times today

Don't go around tonight
Well, it's bound to take your life
There's a bad moon on the rise…

But what was the song really referring to?

Some say “…it was a song about the Vietnam War. Some say it denotes the end of the world”.(1) Some interpret the song to be about “a depressed man standing on train tracks at night watching the approaching train come to take his life. He sees the train's headlight and it reminds him of the Moon”.(2) Still others take a more general slant to interpreting the phrase, saying “The term Bad Moon Rising has been around for decades and is used to suggest the approach of anything dangerous or evil”.(3)

The real meaning of Bad Moon Rising and inspiration for the song may be something more mundane.

According to, Rolling Stone magazine interviewed the song’s author, John Fogerty, and asked him about the song’s origins. Fogerty stated the lyrics were inspired by a movie called The Devil and Daniel Webster, in which a storm wiped out most of a town. That is where he got the idea for the lyrics “I hear hurricanes a-blowin’, I know the end is coming soon”.

“Bad Moon Rising” lyrics also contain a famous mondegreen (a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung) of the line “There’s a bad Moon on the rise”. People often incorrectly hear and sing "There's a bathroom on the right". Fogerty himself has been known to occasionally substitute the "bathroom" version of the lyric as a joke during his live shows, including on his 1998 live album Premonition. (4)

The song may also have been prophetic for Fogerty’s rock and roll group, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Not long after “Bad Moon Rising” rose to #2 on the 1969 music charts, reports began to surface that the group was experiencing serious artistic differences and might not last much longer. Even though the group officially stayed together until 1972, the dissension and discord indeed demonstrated a “Bad Moon Rising” for the musicians.
For me personally, “Bad Moon Rising” holds a special, if somewhat embarrassing, memory. That song was among the few performed publicly by an especially bad garage band from the early 70s that featured yours truly as the semi-skilled drummer. So, when I hear the opening chords of that song, my own “bad Moon rising” memory is played out – slowly, painfully and forever off-key.

Steve Lee, Dynetics




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