Hilton Valentine, the legendary guitarist and the founding member of the rock band The Animals, has passed away at 77. ABKCO Music & Records confirmed the tragic news on January 29, 2020.
The Animals' Hilton Valentine, who will forever be remembered for the iconic opening riff on the band's hit number "The House of the Rising Sun," has passed away. He was 77.
The band's label ABKCO Music & Records announced the news on Twitter. They honored the late icon as a pioneering guitarist who would influence the sound of rock and roll for decades to come.
Hilton Valentine of the Animals suring the 2010 Rock Con: The National Rock & Roll Fan Fest on July 31, 2010, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. | Source: Getty Images
The label learned of the guitarist's death from his wife, Germaine. The statement did not reveal the cause of death. Fans and loved ones have been mourning the loss of the trailblazing icon.
Valentine was the founding member of the 60s band. He formed it in 1963 in Newcastle. Singer Eric Burton, bassist Chas Chandler, drummer John Steel, and organist Alan Price are the original members.
A cover version of "House Of The Rising Sun" was the band's most famous song ever. The hit topped the charts in the US and the UK In 1964. The introductory arpeggio riff is still as legendary as it was then.
He also formed the band Skiffledog and released two albums.
The Animals reunite for a world tour at Grosvenor House in London on June 15, 1983. | Source: Getty Images
The song is regarded as one of the reasons why Bob Dylan went electric in 1965. The hit was followed by other remakes of blues numbers, including "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place."
Born in Northumberland, England, Valentine fell in love with music at an early age. He first picked up the guitar when he was 13. By the time he was 16, he had lost his parents.
British rock group The Animals pose in front of a telephone booth circa 1965. | Source: Getty Images
Back then, his skiffle group "The Heppers" had all his attention. The group later evolved into The Wildcats. While Valentine sharpened his saw playing with his very first groups, he was gaining popularity for his energetic performances.
It was Chandler, Price, and Burdon who noticed Valentine and recruited him to join The Animals. The guitarist would remain with the band for the next four years as they remade classic hits.
After leaving the band in 1966, he reportedly took part in reunions in 1975 and 1983. In 1994, Valentine was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with all his bandmates.
In the years that followed, Valentine worked as a solo artist. He released his first solo album, "All in Your Head," in 1969. He also formed the band Skiffledog and released two albums.