Tune of the Day: The House of the Rising Sun
The most successful commercial version of this tune was, of course, the one recorded by the English rock group The Animals in 1964, which was a number one hit in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.
Like many classic folk ballads, the authorship of ”The House of the Rising Sun” is unknown. Alan Price of The Animals has claimed that the song was originally a sixteenth-century English folk song about a Soho brothel, and that English emigrants took the song to America where it was adapted to its later New Orleans setting. The oldest known existing recording is by Appalachian artists Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster and was made in 1933. Ashley said he had learned it from his grandfather, Enoch Ashley.
The song might have been lost to obscurity had it not been collected by folklorist Alan Lomax, who, along with his father, was a curator of the Archive of American Folk Song for the Library of Congress. On his 1937 expedition to eastern Kentucky Lomax set up his recording equipment in Middlesborough, and recorded a performance by Georgia Turner, the 16-year-old daughter of a local miner. He originally called it “The Risin' Sun Blues”.