July 9, 1964 the group The Animals hit the first line of the British charts with the song “The House of the Rising Sun”. Simple plot of the song about the hard life of a poor boy and rhythmic strumming of British folk won the hearts of millions of people from around the world. What was the reason for such popularity? The paradox of the Legendary House of the Rising Sun was the fact that The Animals were not the first one who told the story of the fateful “House”. For several centuries prisoners, drunks, vagrants sang this song in UK and Ireland and, of course, there was no New Orleans yet. The British sailed to discover the the New World and took a simple motif with them, close to everyone story that they could sing, even without musical accompaniment.
With the birth of the blues and the development of musical styles many artists offered the version of the famous folk song, and often they played very different music. If you make a chronology of performances of the song before the famous single by group The Animals, we obtain the following chain:
1932 – version of the song entitled “Rising Sun Blues” performed by “Tom” Clarence Ashley (Clarence Ashley), guitarist and banjo player. Ashley (September 29, 1895 – June 2, 1967) claimed that he first heard the song from his grandfather.
1937 – the same “Rising Sun Blues” was sung by Georgia Turner.
1938 – the song “Rising Sun” by Roy Acuff.
1962 – Bob Dylan recorded the song.
It is believed that version of Bob Dylan The Animals took as the basis of their hit. Anyway, these guys brought «The House of the Rising Sun» on top of the charts in the UK and USA. The Animals immortalized version where the protagonist of the song was the son of a poor tailor and a gambling man, who spent his life in sin and misery in the house of the Rising Sun. However, there were alternative stories – and the song could be performed by a woman.
This diversity can be attributed not only to folk roots, but also the fact that there is still some debate, what a very famous “House” was. Some researchers have put forward the version that house of the Rising Sun is the name of a brothel. V. Pisigin in his essays about traveling in the United States says he met the photographs of early XX century building with a rising sun on the gate – it was a women’s prison in New Orleans.
Anyway, the song is still popular, and many will gladly make their covers on it. Among the most famous artists can be called Lana Del Ray, BB King, Jimi Hendrix and Sinead O’Connor. “House of the Rising Sun” is a list of the top 500 songs in the history magazine The Rolling Stones.
Legendary House of the Rising Sun