'The House of the Rising Sun:' The Animals' Hit Predates New Orleans

By Rebeka Knott
Single cover for an EMI/Columbia issue of The Animals' 'House Of The Rising Sun.' Source: Amazon

"The House of the Rising Sun," was a hit for the British rock and roll band The Animals in 1964. The classic rock song tells the story of a young boy who was led into a life of pain and misery at house of vices and ill repute. The lyrics paint a portrait of a city where gambling, prostitution and corruption run rampant. It is well known as one of the first, if not the first, traditional American folk song about the infamous city of New Orleans.

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.

The History of the House of the Rising Sun

“The House of the Rising Sun,” is said to have a close resemblance to another song, “The Unfortunate Rake,” an old 16th-century folk song. Over time, much like has been said about “The House of the Rising Sun,” has evolved many, many times over. The earliest known variant of “The Unfortunate Rake” laments over a young man dying of syphilis. This count would be in line with the song that The Animals made so famous. Other versions depict the fate of young soldiers, sailors, cowboys or maids whose lives ended much too soon. In any event, it really is the tale of a sad state of affairs.