The Animals’ founding guitarist Hilton Valentine, who wrote the famous riff on the classic “House of the Rising Sun,” has died.
The British musician died on January 29 at the age of 77, his label ABKCO Music said. His wife Germaine Valentine confirmed the news.
Valentine’s guitarwork was influenced by skiffle in his formative years as he performed and composed in a skiffle band prior to his forays into rock with the Animals. As a co-founder of the band, Valentine famously penned the jangly guitar riff that helped make “House of the Rising Sun” a defining song of the ’60s.
“It really was Hilton who made the early Animals a rock band because I don’t think the element of rock was in the band until we found him,” the Animals bandmate Eric Burdon told Guitar International, per ABKCO Music. “In those days, Hilton wasn’t just playing rock ’n’ roll, he looked rock ’n’ roll. Here was a guy with the greased mop of hair combed back, cheap leather jacket, winkle picker shoes, black jeans and a smile on his face playing through an echoplex, which was a secret weapon back then.”
The Animals played an integral role in the British Invasion as they, alongside fellow rock groups the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Kinks, took over the airwaves and influenced pop culture in the US during the mid-’60s. Following his tenure with the Animals and their subsequent break-up, Valentine moved on to write and release solo albums, such as 1969’s All in Your Head and 2011’s Skiffledog on Coburg Street.
Burdon took to Instagram to pay tribute to his late bandmate. “The opening opus of ‘Rising Sun’ will never sound the same!” he wrote. “You didn’t just play it, you lived it! Heartbroken by the sudden news of Hilton’s passing. We had great times together, Geordie lad. From the North Shields to the entire world…Rock In Peace.”
RIP, Hilton Valentine. Revisit “House of the Rising Sun” below: