The roots of House of the Rising Sun can be seen in Broadside Ballads of the 17th century and are wrapped in the history of printing and the politicisation of communication. They were just text but they could be sung to the tune of another song.

The theme is always the same - Something terrible has happened to me, I’m cut down in my prime, I have lost all my money etc. There is no original to the House of the Rising Sun but there are some ballads that have a similar basis to it.

In later versions there is often a New Orleans reference. It has a strong feel of South America rather than, say, the UK but there is no hard evidence of this.

The earliest version in the modern era was a 1905 version of which there is a text version only. There is a version in 1925 but the earliest, unmistakeable, recording is by 16 year old Georgia Turner in the 1930s when the song was adopted by people in the Appalachian Mountains in America.

In the 40s and 50s there was a big uprising of folk singers who had settled, rather than who were indigenous, standing up to American exceptionalism. Out of this came Pete Seeger and The Almanac Singers who sang it in a major key as they were set on bringing a more positive approach to their music.

Harry Cox, in the 1950s, was a famous UK folk singer. He lived for almost a century and was a great repository of folk music. His version was quite different to the versions that followed some 10 years later in America.

Bob Dylan was drawn to a lesser known version of the song by Dave Van Ronk although by this time others such as Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had published their own versions. Almost at the same time, Joan Baez had a hit with it. The Animals wrote a definitive version of it which was a very big hit for them.

Gareth Williams is a jazz pianist who describes the use of the major and relative minor in close succession. Then an unusual movement from the key of D to F follows which makes it very distinctive.

But what is the House of the Rising Sun? An actual place, a house of ill repute, a woman's prison? This cannot be determined so you should listen to the lyrics and decide for yourself.

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