When The Animals released “The House of The Rising Sun” in 1964 the song was an overnight success.
Fans fell in love with the haunting melodies and captivating storytelling in the lyrics. A tale of a man who had lost everything gambling and was now facing prison time in New Orleans. When this version of The Animals “House of The Rising Sun” went big, most who loved the story, were oblivious to the history of the song. The Animals covered this song which has a long history the folk history of America. Historians have been tracing the origins of “The House of The Rising Sun” for years finding more than they imagined.
American folk songs are often difficult to trace back to their origins. Songs passed down from generation to generation and from family to family. This sharing of classic folk songs allows us access to some of the wonderful music from the past, but we may never know who wrote some of the songs.
The Animals version of “The House of The Rising Sun” is their interpretation of the song.
In the popular rock-folk version a gambling man is on his way back to New Orleans to serve time in jail. Interestingly, in all the versions of the original songs, the narrator is neither a man nor a gambler. In The Animals “House of The Rising Sun” their main character changed to a gambler for a larger radio attraction.
Many historians believe that the song is about a brothel in New Orleans. “The House Of The Rising Sun” was named after Madame Marianne LeSoleil Levant (which means “Rising Sun” in French).
Though, there are other historians who believe the song is about a women’s prison facility in the Orleans Parish district, which formerly had ‘rising sun’ artwork on it’s doors. Of course, this is would fit the ‘ball and chain’ lyric of the song.
In 1937, Georgia Turner recorded “The House of The Rising Sun” when she was only sixteen years old. Music historian Alan Lomax is often given credit for recording Turner singing the first version of the now famous song.
But, notable folk singer Clarence Ashley actually did make an earlier recording of the same song in 1933. “Clarence said that he learned the song from his grandfather dating the origins considerably older then 1933. Intriguingly, while both Ashley and Turner came from the Appalachia region, Clarence was from Tennessee and Georgia was from Kentucky. The two were over 100 miles apart, a considerable distance in the 1930s, yet both sang eerily similar versions of the song. In an age where few could afford record players or radios, how did so many people learn the same song?”*
Somehow passed around from the late 1800s-1964 when The Animals “House of The Rising Sun” was released. That is kind of creepy.
The Animals “House of The Rising Sun” is one of the best songs to come out of the sixties and one of the greatest songs of all time. The first folk song to add rock music contains one of my favorite lyrical story lines. This song has always captivated me because The Animals played “The House of the Rising Sun” in such a way that the depression and darkness of the main character can be felt through the music. Knowing the rich folk history adds a paranormal element just thinking of those spirits still singing this song.