House of the Rising Sun
In a Nutshell
If you search for "The House of the Rising Sun" on YouTube, you'll find more versions of the song than you can count on your fingers and toes put together. Perhaps more surprisingly, more than a few of those versions will actually be pretty great.
At its core, the song is a word of advice from a speaker who is now older and wiser, warning young people to steer clear of the path that led the speaker to ruin. Whether "The House of the Rising Sun" is a brothel, a women's prison, or some different kind of sordid locale, the song is always a dark one. Some versions are addressed to young women, and some to young men.
The song knocked around the southeastern United States for decades, perhaps even a century, before the Animals picked it up in the 1960s; Alan Lomax's 1937 recording of a teenager named Georgia Turner had really put the song on the map. Somehow, a British invasion band took this deeply American song and not only made it their own, but brought it to a wider audience (and presumably made more money off of it) than anyone had before.
How did this song get from nineteenth century Appalachia to the top of the Billboard charts? We've got the story for you right here.
About the Song
||Musician(s)||Eric Burdon (vocals), Alan Price (Vox organ), Hilton Valentine (guitar), John Steel (drums), Chas Chandler (bass)
|Writer(s)||Unknown/traditional; Animals' arrangement by Alan Price|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
To a certain extent, the Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" is a product of the 1960s
. The hit was part of the British invasion and actually the first non-Beatles British song
to reach the top of the American charts.
But the song is also a product of the American heartland, pieced together in Appalachia and the American South, and shaped by many of the same influences that gave us country music
and the blues
(in fact, another name for the song was simply "Rising Sun Blues").
And, of course, recording "House of the Rising Sun" links the Animals to a long line of artists who've done the same song, including Bob Dylan
, Nina Simone
, Jimi Hendrix
, Bon Jovi
, and Dolly Parton
. Like American folk legends Woody Guthrie
and Pete Seeger
, these artists all took a part of the American music consciousness and remade it in their own voices.
On the Charts
The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" reached #1 in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada.Rolling Stone
ranked it #122 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.