Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Missed 2014 Necrology: Saul Zaentz Kant Danz

If you’ve noticed anything about this blog, 2014 it was more hit and miss than discussing the hits. Having reached the milestone of five years and over 1,500 posts, I decided to take some long breaks from writing due to changes in my personal life. Unfortunately by doing so, I missed reporting on a number of deaths that occurred in 2014. For January’s second week feature, I’ve decided to go back and highlight some of these individuals who passed during last year.

Today’s feature is not one that most individuals would place on a pedestal in the scheme of things, but he was essential to the music business no matter what your opinion was of Saul Zaentz. Having died on January 3, 2014 at the age of 92, Zaentz started his recording career as Fantasy Records’ national sales manager in 1955. By 1967, he and others had the opportunity to purchase the label from Max and Sol Weiss. The friction between Zaentz and the label’s biggest artist, Creedence Clearwater Revival, places him in the category of musical infamy.

A nascent CCR began recording for Fantasy under their original name Tom Fogerty and the Blue Velvets. However, before the singles were released, owner Max Weiss had changed their name to The Golliwogs. Unfortunately, their numerous recordings from 1964 to 1967 failed to reach national attention. That is until the band reinvented itself as Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1967. Their first recordings under that moniker were issued on Fantasy in 1968 – and the rest is history – so they say.

CCR’s contract with Fantasy stipulated that Zaentz and Fantasy owned the recording and publishing rights to all of their music. In order to divest himself from Fantasy, John Fogerty signed away further rights to Zaentz. Bad investments caused CCR to lose significant income and lawsuits to recoup some of the losses were marginally successful. In addition, Zaentz sued Fogerty for plagiarism of his own music claiming that 1984’s “The Old Man down the Road” borrowed from CCR’s “Running through the Jungle.” Fogerty won the case and countersued for legal costs with Fogerty ultimately winning.

When John Fogerty finished recording his landmark solo album “Centerfield” for Warner Brothers in 1985, he used it as a platform to voice his displeasure with Zaentz by recording “Mr. Greed” and “Zanz Kant Danz.” The prominent hook was “Zanz kant danz, but he’ll steal your money.” When Zaentz threatened a defamation of character suit, Fogerty rewrote, rerecorded, and reissued the song titled as “Vanz Kant Danz.” The second version was released as a promo single.

While I believe that Zaentz’s tactics in handling CCR and John Fogerty were deplorable, he had a major influence on the music business. To remember him in a light hearted way, here’s the Fogerty’s “Zanz Kant Danz.”

The Video of Vanz Kant Danz

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