Hilton Valentine, founding guitarist of the legendary British Invasion group The Animals, died Friday morning at the age of 77.
Valentine’s passing was revealed by his wife, Germaine, and announced in a message issued by the ABKCO Records label.
Hilton was responsible for arguably one of the most recognizable riffs in rock ‘n’ roll history: the arpeggiated intro to The Animals’ classic 1964 version of the traditional song “The House of the Rising Sun,” which reached #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K.
The Animals formed in 1963 in Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K., and its original lineup featured Valentine, singer Eric Burdon, keyboardist Alan Price, bassist Chas Chandler and drummer John Steel. Hilton played with the group until late 1966, when its initial incarnation dissolved.
In addition to “The House of the Rising Sun,” The Animals’ other hits featuring Valentine included “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “It’s My Life” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.”
After leaving The Animals, Hilton released a solo album called All in Your Head in 1969. He reunited with the band three times in the ensuing years, and was featured with the group’s other original members on two more albums: 1977’s Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted and 1983’s Ark.
In 1994, Valentine was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Animals. In 2007 and 2008, he toured with Burdon.
In recent years, Hilton lived with his wife in Connecticut, where he played in a number of local bands and also released solo music.
Burdon posted a tribute to Valentine on his Facebook page that reads, “The opening opus of ‘Rising Sun’ will never sound the same!…You didn’t just play it, you lived it! Heartbroken by the sudden news of Hilton’s passing. We had great times together, Geordie lad. From the North Shields [U.K.] to the entire world…Rock In Peace.”
By Matt Friedlander
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