The Rich History Behind ‘The House of the Rising Sun’

Music essayist Noah Lefevre of Polyphonic (previously) takes a look at the rich history of the iconic lamenting song “House of the Rising Sun”. The most popular version was recorded by The Animals in 1964, but its history is believed to go back to Appalachia in the early 1930s. While the author remains unknown, the song has been recorded in many variations and provides various interpretations as to what or where this “house” is. Despite these many interpretations, the theme always remains the same – everyone must go home whether they want to or not.

And after The Animals’ version, the song was truly in the pop music zeitgeist. For the next 50 years, hundreds more artists would cover it. …For every artist it’s a jail, it’s gambling house, a brothel and a pub…but whether its a rambler or a gambler, a prostitute or a pauper, the meaning of ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ is always the same. It’s a place of vice, a place of foreboding that one desperately wants to avoid, yet is constantly drawn back.

What is the House of the Rising Sun

Here are some of the very many interpretations of the song.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.