A. Historians have not been able to definitively identify The House Of The Rising Sun, but here are the two most popular theories:
1) The song is about a brothel in New Orleans. “The House Of The Rising Sun” was named after its occupant Madame Marianne LeSoleil Levant (which means “Rising Sun” in French) and was open for business from 1862 (occupation by Union troops) until 1874, when it was closed due to complaints by neighbors. It was located at 826-830 St. Louis St.
2) It’s about a women’s prison in New Orleans called the Orleans Parish women’s prison, which had an entrance gate adorned with rising sun artwork. This would explain the “ball and chain” lyrics in the song.
The melody is a traditional English ballad, but the song became popular as an African-American folk song. It was recorded by Texas Alexander in the 1920s, then by a number of other artists including Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Josh White and later Nina Simone. It was her version The Animals first heard. No one can claim rights to the song, meaning it can be recorded and sold royalty-free. Many bands covered the song after it became a hit for The Animals.
The Animals performed this song while touring England with Chuck Berry in May 1964. It went over so well that they recorded it between stops on the tour. In our 2010 interview with Animals lead singer Eric Burdon, he explained: “‘House of the Rising Sun’ is a song that I was just fated to. It was made for me and I was made for it. It was a great song for the Chuck Berry tour because it was a way of reaching the audience without copying Chuck Berry. It was a great trick and it worked. It actually wasn’t only a great trick, it was a great recording.”