It isn’t hard to see why anyone might be tempted from their seated position to want to learn the House of the Rising Sun chords and lyrics simultaneously. The song exults in a mood that beckons even the most ambivalent and unenthused musician and / or vocalist out of their languid stupor and into a scene full of all the emotions this dear song contains.
This particular song has found itself echoed and repeated throughout the annals of popular music no matter where you turn nor under which rock you probe nor whose mullet’s undergrowth you investigate for clues. The song has been oft made popular by ceaseless generations of budding musicians wanting to leave their mark on it with their own signature twist.
Originally, however, the House of the Rising Sun chords and lyrics likely have their roots as the basis of a traditional English folk song, mutating and finding home in various forms of Appalachian music, libretto permutating along the way to whatever is relevant and wanting to be communicated by the present orator.
The Story of the House of the Rising Sun Chords and Lyrics
Like many other folk songs, and by its very nature in fact, ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ chords and lyrics are of uncertain authorship. Musicologists say that it is based on the tradition of broadside ballads, and thematically it has some resemblance to the 16th century ballad ‘The Unfortunate Rake’, yet there is no evidence suggesting that there is any direct relation, and how could there be?
The oldest known recording of the song, under the title ‘Rising Sun Blues’, was recorded and released by Appalachian artists Clarence ‘Tom’ Ashley and Gwen Foster, who recorded it on September 6th 1933, on the Vocalion record label. Ashley claimed that he had learned it from his grandfather, Enoch Ashley, who got married around the time of the Civil War, suggesting inherently that the song could have been written years before the turn of the century, in line with many current theories on the song’s authorship.
An interview with Eric Burdon of the Animals, whose version of the song I imagine we are most familiar with, revealed that he first heard the song in a club in Newcastle, England, where it was sung by the Northumbrian folk singer Johnny Handle. The Animals were on tour with Chuck Berry at the time and chose it because they wanted something distinctive to sing, something to help them stand out among all the other droves of white rock and roll bands.
The Animals had begun featuring their arrangement of ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ during this very same joint concert tour with Chuck Berry, achieving a tremendous reaction from the audience, convincing initially reluctant producer Mickie Most that it had the potential to be a hit single, and between tour stops the group went to a small recording studio on Kingsway in London to capture it. And the rest is history…
Chords and Lyrics to The House of the Rising Sun
Given that the entirety of the song can be played with just six chords, it would be pertinent to explore the lyrics in more detail, though before we go on the chords will be detailed below, for your diligent study:
There is a common misconception that, prior to the Animals version of the House of the Rising Sun chords and lyrics, the original song was about and from the perspective of a woman, though this is incorrect, as the narrative of the lyrics has always alternated between male and female narrators, typically fluctuating with the gender of the person orating the song.
The earliest known printed version from Gordon’s column in a news paper is about a woman’s warning. The earliest known recording of the song by Ashley is about a rounder, a male character.
The Actual Lyrics to Sing Along to
There is a house way down 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
Mother was a tailor, yeah, yeah
Sewed my Levi jeans
My father was a gamblin’ man, yeah, yeah
Down, way down in New Orleans
Now the only thing a gamblin’ man ever needs
Is a suitcase, Lord, and a trunk
And the only time a fool like him is satisfied
Is when he’s all stone cold drunk
So, there you have it, a guide on the House of the Rising Sun chords and lyrics that should be befitting for all those wanting to grapple with this wonderful and hallowed song, beginner to virtuoso and all in between.
FAQs House of the Rising Sun Chords and Lyrics
Despite how potent an emotional punch the House of the Rising Sun chords and lyrics pack, there are only six chords throughout, used in so masterful a fashion that no more are needed to convey the narrative within. These chords don’t even require a capo and, aside from the slight confusion of the F shape, are open chords, making this a selection ripe for beginner guitarists galore: Am – C – D – E – F – Dm, though not in this order necessarily.