Meaning of The House of the Rising Sun by The Animals

Well-known folk songs are usually shrouded in a mass of rumors, but in the case of The House of the Rising Sun , they are especially numerous. Its most famous performer was the rock band The Animals. The effective vocals of soloist Eric Burdon and incomparable musical accompaniment provided the compositions with a worthy place in the hearts of music lovers.

But back to the legends that literally permeate the history of the song. To begin with, no one can say for sure whether it is dedicated to a real institution called the “Rising Sun”, a person with a similar name, or whether it is nothing more than a symbol. It is also impossible to say with certainty whether the first version was performed on behalf of a man or a woman. Even finding out when and where it was written is very problematic.

It only remains for us to consider the most interesting facts and conjectures related to The House of the Rising Sun, so that the reader can clearly imagine how interesting this song is in all respects.

Story of The House of the Rising Sun

Alan Price of The Animals claimed that The House of the Rising Sun originated in sixteenth century England. However, music historians note in the song the tradition of eighteenth-century ballads (the so-called broadside ballads). Some of them believe that British immigrants brought it to America, and a line about New Orleans appeared there.

The composition “The house of the rising sun” has several variations, which differ from each other in the storyline. In the center of all options is a lyrical hero who tells about his existence. The character is sure that his life is ruined. This happened in the house of the Rising Sun. The lyrical hero addresses the audience. He considers it his duty to point out his mistakes to people so that they do not repeat his bitter experience. The character is not happy with his fate. There are composition options where the main character is a woman. The performers from “The Animals” made the representative of the stronger sex the central character. Many questions arise regarding the “House of the Rising Sun” itself. It is not known for certain whether the premises described in the composition were in New Orleans or not.

According to blues historian Alan Lomax in 1941, the lyrics were written by Georgia Turner and Bert Martin. The authors of the future hit of all time lived in Kentucky. Initially, the lyrics of the song were set to the music of a traditional English ballad. But this is only one version of the origin of the famous composition.

In 1934, the first recording appeared, which is known to connoisseurs of music. The track attracted a huge number of bluesmen. In the 30-40s of the twentieth century, this song was performed by several artists. In the second half of the 20th – early 21st centuries, a large number of musicians tried to interpret the famous poignant composition in their own way. But one of the most famous versions of the performance of the legendary hit belongs to The Animals.

Researchers cannot answer the question of what kind of room is mentioned in the text of the composition. Some believe that this building represents a brothel. There are those who are sure that this is a prison. There are versions that this room is a tavern. In New Orleans, in the time period described in the composition, there were two establishments that had this name. However, they both closed almost immediately after their opening. There is no information about the field of activity of these institutions.

Translation of the song into Russian was made in the middle of the twentieth century. Translators T. Sikorskaya and S. Bolotin presented the composition as the folk blues of America. The future hit was released in a special music collection. The legendary composition “The house of the rising sun” is relevant in our time. The deep hidden meaning of the work became the main reason for the success of the ageless hit.

The first performers of The House of the Rising Sun

The first recording that has survived to this day was made in 1934. It was sung by Clarence “Tom” Ashley (who was taught the song by his father) and Gwen Foster.

In 1937, folklorist Alan Lomax, while on an expedition to eastern Kentucky, recorded a version of the song called The Rising Sun Blues, performed by Georgia Turner, the daughter of a Middlesboro miner.

Later, in those parts, he found several more versions of The House of the Rising Sun. After analyzing them, he came to the conclusion that the melody of the song is similar to the English folk ballad Matty Groves.

In the 1940s and 60s, The House of the Rising Sun was performed by many singers and bands, who often changed its name and words. In late 1961, Bob Dylan recorded the song, and Nina Simone did it a year later.

The House of the Rising Sun – The Animals

But this composition became a hit thanks to The Animals, which in 1964 began playing The House of the Rising Sun during a UK tour with Chuck Berry. Eric Burdon claimed to have heard the song in a club in Newcastle where Johnny Handle sang it.

If this is true, then the widespread belief that The Animals “ripped off” the composition from Bob Dylan can be considered a delusion. Dylan himself said that this version struck him on the spot.

Then you can watch the video clip of The House of the Rising Sun The Animals online and listen to the legendary song.

The audience also appreciated the efforts of the group. The House of the Rising Sun, performed by The Animals, topped the US and UK charts, and was ranked 124th on the list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

What is the song “House of the Rising Sun” about?

This is the most interesting and mysterious question about The House of the Rising Sun. No one can give an exact answer to it, supported by facts that leave no doubt.

Of course, the first line of the lyrics makes the researchers look for a house in New Orleans (although let’s not forget that the song may have English roots). It should also be taken into account that earlier it was usually performed on behalf of a woman.

Among the many assumptions about what could be called the “house of the rising sun”, two seem most likely: a prison and a brothel.

The words of the song speak in favor of the first version. Some lines make it possible to clearly imagine a girl who ended up in prison for killing her father, a drunkard who played cards and beat his wife. In addition, Dave van Ronk, one of the performers of The House of the Rising Sun, claimed that there was once a women’s colony in New Orleans, over the gate of which the rising sun was depicted.

But most researchers believe that “house of the rising sun” is a euphemism for a brothel. There is no information about the existence of an institution of this kind with this name in New Orleans.

But it is reliably known that at the beginning of the nineteenth century there was a small Rising Sun Hotel, which burned down two years after construction. During excavations at this site, a suspicious amount of female cosmetics was found. We also managed to find an advertisement for the hotel, and some phrases in it can be interpreted as allusions to the provision of intimate services.

It has also been suggested that the song is about a brothel run by Madame Marianne LeSoleil Levant, whose name can be translated from French as “rising sun”. Again, this is nothing more than a guess.

Naturally, in the interpretation of the song “House of the Rising Sun” was not without assumptions about drugs (say, we are talking about the use of opium) and the oppression of blacks (meaning the plantations of slave owners). Other guesses seem quite implausible.

Decide for yourself which version looks more realistic.


In addition to the performers mentioned above, The House of the Rising Sun has been sung by many contemporary vocalists. But it seems to us that no one has managed to surpass The Animals. So do readers of Rolling Stone magazine, who included the band’s version in their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Meaning of the song “The house of the rising sun”

The American song “The house of the rising sun” is better known as a folk ballad. Translated from English, the name of the composition sounds like “House of the Rising Sun”. In some sources, you can find another meaning – “Rising Sun Blues”. The events described in the composition take listeners to New Orleans. The performers of the legendary folk ballad are the popular band The Animals. Immediately after its release in 1964, the composition made a splash. For a long time, the track stayed at the top positions of the charts not only in the US, but also in the UK. But where does this composition come from? Why did the listeners include this hit in the list of the best songs of all time? To answer these questions, it is necessary to conduct a detailed analysis of the composition.

In the first part of the composition, the lyrical hero talks about the house that attracted all his attention. He does not say what kind of building it is. Listeners only have information about the name of this house. The character is sure that this building is the only one in New Orleans. Despite the sublime name (“House of the Rising Sun”), this place has a bad reputation. Many young people could not resist the temptations that this mysterious house offered them. There is no exact answer what was located in the building. Maybe it’s a brothel. Many researchers are sure that this is exactly the place where all human vices were discovered, “leaked” out. It was this institution that ruined the happy life of the guys. They could not cope with their secret desires. The lyrical hero does not hide the fact that he himself is one of such people. He succumbed to his instincts who played a cruel joke on him. Now the character is sure that visiting this institution left a significant imprint on his future life. He cannot change anything.

In the next part of the song, the hero remembers his family. His mother was an ordinary dressmaker who barely made ends meet. The character with sadness in his voice says that his parent was poor. However, he does not put into the word “poor” only a material meaning. Yes, the mother did not have luxury, prosperity. But that’s not what the hero cares about. The character is sure that with his actions and actions he upset his mother, made her worry and suffer. In this part of the composition, the hero also remembers his father. He was a gambler. The desire to live a full life was inherited by the character. Passion was in his blood. However, this did not lead to anything good. The lyrical hero does not want to say anything about the further fate of his father. He only hints to listeners that his parent was at the bottom. But these words should not be taken literally. The character wants to convey to everyone that gamblers are rarely happy successful individuals. They cannot cope with their emotions, feelings. All their thoughts are focused only on the game. The life outcome of such gambling people is extremely sad.

In the third part of the composition “The house of the rising sun” the character begins to talk about the meaning of existence. What are the goals of the hero? He is sure that human temptations can destroy life. These are not just words. Anyone who is not interested in anything dooms himself to a miserable existence. A person addicted to gambling does not notice anyone and nothing around. He can overstep moral boundaries. He has no grandiose plans, dreams, sincere desires. Inside such a character is emptiness. Over time, the lyrical hero realizes that he stumbled, chose the wrong path. He realizes that he can no longer live like this and does not want to. But is there a way out of this situation? Will the hero be able to believe in himself and his strength again? Will he be able to overcome his temptations and find happiness?

In the next part of the song, the character addresses the audience. He sincerely asks everyone to think about their existence. The lyrical hero does not want someone to repeat his fate. Doing a vile act, deceiving, showing cowardice, one should think many times. Sometimes the wrong step changes the whole fate. Looking back, the character is very sorry that he stumbled. He wants to fix everything, but it’s impossible. He should live on, but he has neither mental nor physical strength. Obsessive thoughts about perfect deeds do not let him go. Over time it becomes unbearable. The character is trying to convey to everyone that an idle lifestyle will not lead to success, and greed will never become a guarantee of happiness. The lyrical hero is sure that it is necessary to learn from the mistakes of others, and try never to make them.

Interesting Facts

  • Bob Dylan stopped singing The House of the Rising Sun after it was recorded by The Animals because listeners started accusing him of plagiarism.
  • The song, performed by The Animals, has often been called folk rock’s first hit.
  • In 2011, director Brian A. Miller titled his film House of Rising Sun.
  • Garik Sukachev’s film “The House of the Sun” in the working version was called “The House of the Rising Sun”.

The House of the Rising Sun lyrics

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

My mother was a tailor
She sewed my new blue jeans
My father was a gambling man
Down in New Orleans

And the only things a gambler needs
Is a suitcase and a trunk
And the only time he’s satisfied
Is when he’s all a-drunk

So mothers, tell your children
Not to do what I have done
Spend your life in sin and misery
In the house of the Rising Sun

I’ve got one foot on the platform
The other foot on the train
I’m going back to New Orleans
To wear the ball and chain

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 House of the Rising Sun lyrics alternative

There’s a house in New Orleans
Which is called the rising sun
He killed many poor people
Yes, and I, God, one of them

My mother was a dressmaker
She made me new blue jeans
And my father was a player
In New Orleans

And all the player needs
This is a suitcase and trunk
And he is happy only when
When you’re dead drunk

Mothers, tell the children
Don’t repeat my mistakes
So that they don’t have to spend their lives in sin and poverty
In the house of the rising sun

And here I am with one foot on the platform,
And the second on the footboard of the car
I’m going back to New Orleans
To put the core on the chains

There’s a house in New Orleans
Which is called the rising sun
He killed many poor people
Yes, and I, God, one of them

Chords and tabs of The House of the Rising Sun

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Song quote

The House of the Rising Sun is a song destined for me. She was made for me and I was made for her.

Eric Burdon, The Animals

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