Hilton Valentine, Founding Member of The Animals, Dies at 77

Valentine played the lead guitar riff on The Animals’ hit single “House of the Rising Sun”

Hilton Stewart Paterson Valentine, founding member of the U.K. rhythm and blues band The Animals, died Jan. 29. He was 77 years old.

The Animals and Valentine’s record label, Abkco Records, confirmed his passing in an Instagram post Friday. “Our deepest sympathies go out to Hilton Valentine’s family and friends on his passing this morning, at the age of 77,” the label wrote. “A founding member and original guitarist of The Animals, Valentine was a pioneering guitar player influencing the sound of rock and roll for decades to come.”

Valentine was born in Northumberland, England and joined The Animals in 1963, alongside existing members (and original bassist) Chas Chandler and vocalist Eric Burdon. Valentine quickly helped catapult the fledgling group to stardom with his work on their song “House of the Rising Sun” — his electric guitar arpeggio riff that introduces the song is now considered a classic.

Valentine played with the Animals for only about three years. The band’s first cohort of players dissolved by 1966, but his work with them lived on in “House of the Rising Sun” and other classic songs, like “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and their cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” During his time with The Animals, Valentine recorded four albums, including their debut self-titled album, studio record “The Animals on Tour,” “Animal Tracks,” and two released in 1966.

The last album Valentine played with the band on was “Animalization” in 1966, but he continued to make music after leaving The Animals — he worked with producer (and later, a member of the Animals) Vic Briggs to produce a solo album in LA for Capitol Records called “All in Your Head,” which he released in 1970.

Despite his short tenure with The Animals, Valentine made a lasting impact on the rock scene and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 along with the rest of the band’s members. The band was also inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame in Hollywood in 2001, and played a two-night reunion gig at the Mid-Wilshire El Rey Theatre.


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