About the song

Ah, yes, The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” (1964). A true classic of the rock and roll era, and a song that transcends genre. This isn’t just a catchy tune; it’s a cultural touchstone, a haunting narrative woven into the very fabric of popular music.

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The song’s origins are shrouded in mystery, a characteristic it shares with many folk tunes. There are versions dating back to the 1930s collected in Appalachia, but its roots likely stretch even further back, possibly to traditional English folk songs [Wikipedia: The House of the Rising Sun]. The exact meaning of the “House” itself is debated. Some believe it’s a brothel, a place of lost dreams and shattered innocence. Others see it as a gambling den, a metaphorical trap that lures in the unsuspecting. Regardless of the interpretation, the song paints a vivid picture of a life gone wrong, a descent into a world of despair.

The Animals, a British band with a raw, bluesy sound, took this folk song and transformed it into a rock and roll anthem. Released in 1964, it became a number one hit on both sides of the Atlantic, a testament to its universal appeal. The song opens with the now-iconic guitar riff by Hilton Valentine, a simple yet powerful melody that instantly sets the mood. Alan Price’s pounding piano and Chas Chandler’s bass lay down a driving rhythm section, while John Steel’s drums provide a sense of urgency. But it’s the vocals of Eric Burdon that truly steal the show. Burdon’s voice, a gritty and soulful rasp, perfectly embodies the desperation of the narrator. He doesn’t sing the lyrics, he lives them.

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“House of the Rising Sun” may be a folk song at its core, but The Animals’ interpretation ushered in a new era. It blurred the lines between folk and rock, paving the way for what would later be called folk-rock. This wasn’t just electrified folk music; it was raw emotion channeled through the power of rock and roll. The song’s influence can be heard in countless artists, from Bob Dylan to Led Zeppelin.

The beauty of “House of the Rising Sun” lies in its simplicity. The lyrics are straightforward, the melody is catchy, yet the song manages to evoke a powerful sense of longing and regret. It’s a cautionary tale, a warning against the temptations that can lead us astray. But it’s also a testament to the enduring human spirit, the voice that continues to sing even from the depths of despair. So, when you hear those opening chords, take a moment to appreciate this timeless classic. It’s more than just a song; it’s a piece of musical history.

Video

Lyrics

“The House Of The Rising Sun”

There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God, I know I’m one

My mother was a tailor
She sewed my new blue jeans
My father was a gamblin’ man
Down in New Orleans

Now the only thing a gambler needs
Is a suitcase and a trunk
And the only time he’s satisfied
Is when he’s all drunk

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[Organ Solo]

Oh mother, tell your children
Not to do what I have done
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the House of the Rising Sun

Well, I got one foot on the platform
The other foot on the train
I’m goin’ back to New Orleans
To wear that ball and chain

Well, there is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God, I know I’m one