In the era of the steamboat most were originally powered by wood. People along the river made extra money by cutting wood for the steamboats. This wood was usually green and did not...
Left a good job in the city
Workin' for the man ev'ry night and day
And I never lost one minute of sleepin'
Worryin' 'bout the way things might have been

Big wheel keep on turnin'
Proud Mary keep on burnin'
Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river

Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis
Pumped a lot of pane down in New Orleans
But I never saw the good side of the city
'Til I hitched a ride on a river boat queen

Big wheel keep on turnin'
Proud Mary keep on burnin'
Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river
Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river

If you come down to the river
Bet you gonna find some people who live
You don't have to worry 'cause you have [if you got] no money
People on the river are happy to give

Big wheel keep on turnin'
Proud Mary keep on burnin'
Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river
Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river

Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river
Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river
Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river


Lyrics submitted by Nelly

"Proud Mary" as written by John C. Fogerty

Lyrics © THE BICYCLE MUSIC COMPANY

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Proud Mary song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentMy husband and I just bought an old classic fiberglass houseboat. It’s a gorgeous old behemoth monster from the mid ‘70s. We live nearby and plan to moor it and sail it in and around the Mobile Alabama Delta River System. It’s a huge delta second only in size to the mighty Mississippi River Delta, to the West. The boat had no name so we struggled to come up with one until I awoke in my sleep one night with the name Proud Mary. The tune swirling in my head, I remembered this old song and how fitting it was to our boat and us.
    I came to find this forum about song meanings and some of these interpretations for Proud Mary are bizarre and I do get a kick out of the marijuana train of thought. But indeed I do think this song is about a guy seeking a simpler life.
    There’s only 3 short verses but they tell a complete story when you put the whole thing together. The guy leaves a GOOD job, but not that good, working for the man. He doesn't look back. He bounces around doing “simpler” things; Memphis, New Orleans etc… But this life is menial and meaningless and still not what he is looking for.
    And I love my husband’s interpretation of this next part…. He never saw the good side of the city, at least not until he hitched a ride on the riverboat queen. The good side of the city isn’t “uptown,” or the better neighborhoods. The good side of the city can only be seen at a distance, sailing AWAY from it on the river. If you were driving away in a car, to find a simpler life, you could only, figuratively, see the “good” side of the city in your rear view mirror!
    He finally found the simpler life he was searching for, on the river, away from the city all together. And no one has mentioned the interesting double entendre of “Bet you gonna find some people who live.” Of course people live on the river, but maybe also because they take it easy, they really know how to live (it up) and enjoy their simpler life too. You don’t have to worry ‘cause you have no money. The people on the river don’t have any money either. But since they consider themselves rich with the inner peace that life on the river gives them, they are happy and happy to give what they have.
    Maybe you’ll see us rollin’ on the river someday!
    justcynon October 23, 2008   Link
  • +3
    Song MeaningProud Mary refers to a woman's genitals.

    The song is about prostitution. "The Man" was her pimp. She left working for her pimp to hook on her own and found what, for a hooker, was a better life. Most other interpretations of this song cannot explain "Pumped a lot of pain". *A. A hard working hooker is going to be in some pain from being pumped so often. A guy using a hooker is looking to relieve some kind of pain so this lyric has a double meaning, she is also pumping the John and his pain. "Cleaned a lot of plates" is about oral sex. A woman's labial lips when together look like a stack of plates so 'licking the plates clean' lets us know this hooker has branched out with her new found freedom and good life and is now doing women as well. "Big Wheel" is her John and his rhythmic humping is how the Wheel keeps on turning. So now we see clearly how "Proud Mary" is indeed her pussy which she is quite proud of and it's "burning" from so much sex. "Rolling" has long been slang for sexual intercourse. *B. At the end she is trying to recruit more girls without money to become hookers. They will not have to worry, plenty of people on the river will give them money for sex.

    Hitching a ride on the river queen is interesting. Fit in with everything else here it just seems to be saying that her lot really improved when she set up shop as a whore on a river showboat instead of just drifting around as a street hooker. But there is a way this could have been kind of a dig, with wild foreshadowing. *C.

    *A: It's not 'pane and you don't pump propane anyway. Kudos to osubuckeye420 for thinking this could have been about pumping iron but he didn't tie it all together.

    *B: Think "roll in the hay" among other things.

    *C: If you know this band you know several things are true. They were from San Francisco, but pretended they weren't from San Francisco. Among themselves they were about the bitchiest band ever. The songwriter's brother, and also a bandmate, died of AIDS. So .... was he trying to take a little jab at someone by saying he hooked up to a River Queen? I don't know if the writer took it up the a.., I don't know if the guys in the band did. In the 60s and 70s you couldn't have had a career if the public knew. But in a song about prostitution maybe he was working in a message to the underground that yeah, some of the band went both ways or maybe they were just pure gay.
    HawaiiJackon November 29, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI know that lots of people are thinking about drogs, but I am not.
    I think it is about people who change their life immediately, because they just fed up with their stressful and slavish lifestyle. It doesn't matter if the "man" is a lover or your boss, you have to leave it if it has bad effect on you.
    They change everything and jump on Proud Mary's boat what is actually burning. Despite that they don't care at that point of their life, because they have to step into some risky situations to get out from this boring and bad period. And since the boat is keep on burning, they really need to be brave and left everything behind from this negative environment.
    The river is their lifeline and on this river they "don't have to worry", because a lots of nicer people waiting for them in the future.
    The song starts slow and then it is getting crazier and more rough. I think, this is the process how we start to hesitate about things and after that we just do it strong and confident (especially in the Tina Turner version). I love this song, it can help a lot in different situations in my life. So what we have to do is to "rolling and rolling" on this river.....
    Tripikeon April 30, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI always thought this site was created as a means for analyzing, disscussing, and exploring different opinions, in order to gain a better understanding of a particular song. Guess I was wrong. Seems like everytime I log on here all I see is people pointlessly bitching and fighting.

    I'm sure everyone is sick and tired of having to read endless one-sided opinions on why this song isn't about drugs.

    Just the same, I'm know many of you all have to be tired of seeing a drug reference everytime you look up a songmeaning.

    The fact of the matter is, this site is Songmeanings.net. Everyone on here is fully entitled to their own fucking opinions right? No one should been slammed just for thinking this song is about drugs. Its stupid, pointless, and just plain sad to fight over the internet.

    Enough of that now..

    I would really love to believe that this song was writing about weed, but I find a hard time believing that myself. It seems to me that if it was writting solely about smoking marijuana, that there would be more lyrical clues, pretaining to specific expirences or perhaps how it feels like being high and such.

    I get the impression that it about excaping the hustle and bustle of the city. Breaking away from low-paying part time jobs to expirence a simple, more fulfilling life close to nature on the River Boat Queen.

    but hey like my mother always told me..

    opinions are like assholes son, everyone has one, but some of them are full of shit.
    SomethingFrostyon July 30, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis is absurd - Read some history. Steamboats particularly sternwheelers were originally wood powered. People on the river made money cutting and selling wood to them. The wood was green and did not burn well. To make it catch an accelerant was used. A barrel of Lard was kept in the engine road and every log dipped in it before being tossed in the firebox. At that time the largest maker of Lard was the "Proud Mary" lard company out of Chicago. This was confirmed thru very old black and white movies which clearly showed the loading of barrels of Proud Mary Lard and its use in the engine room.
    mm011110on May 23, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Commenthas anyone ever heard the butchering that Tina Turner did to this song? It's horrible. Tina, stick to your own stuff.
    SgtPepperLHCBon June 05, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commentproud mary was a boat
    jamesdean3155on April 26, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOkay, boys and girls, once again we are arguing over something that has already been published numerous times. First, the lyric is "pumped alot of 'TANE", refering to pumping gas. And John Fogerty has said that he was working on three songs at the same time, "Proud Mary", about a washer woman, "Riverboat", and "Rollin' on the River". The three ended up blending into each other, and "Proud Mary" became the name of the riverboat. Period. That's all there is, no drugs, just living on the river. Fogerty dicussed this at length in an interview with Jay Leno several years ago, and it's all been published.
    msgelteron July 27, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think it's hilarious that chris4420 found a quote about CCR (and John Fogerty specifically) being ANTI-DRUGS, and claims it's proof that this specific song is about smoking dope.

    That's along the same line as interpreting the song from one or two words... taking a quote entirely out of context because it mentions Fogerty "dabbling with marijuana," completely ignoring the immediate follow-up, "but that was as far as it ever went."
    diabolusmaguson March 14, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI totally agree with oldriff, CCR is all about encoded songs.
    tomyarton July 02, 2003   Link

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