House Of The Rising Sun Song Meaning - The Grim Message Saturday November 5 2022, 6:30 PM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
House Of The Rising Sun Song Meaning - The Grim Message

House Of The Rising Sun Origins


Here's another one of those timeless songs that have been around for over a century, yet no one knows who actually wrote it. It gives off a soulful and folksy vibe at the same time, and many music history scholars will claim that the song had origins amongst American minors in the very early 1900s.   

Some also say that the original version of the song has African American roots, with ties to the south near  Mississippi and Texas grounds, where many southern black people were located, and creating tons of African American folk music.

Theories claim that the House Of The Rising Sun location was an old brothel in New Orleans, but no clear facts can back that up. A separate rumor claimed that this location describes a female prison, and that's where the connection of the lyrics that mention a ball and chain (in some versions) comes from.

No matter who wrote the song, when it was created, or what version you may come across, the song's message is clearly a foreboding one that talks of a vicious cycle that they urge the listener to avoid.

House Of The Rising Sun Lyrics


The House Of The Rising sun has been published with tons of different lyrical variations to fit the performer's preference. Some versions have lyrics that come from the perspective of a man, while others are told from the perspective of a young girl.

The location of the house can also change depending on what version you are listening to. Some claim that the location is somewhere outside of New Orleans, while the most common versions of the track mention the popular Mississippi. 

Earlier versions of this popular song mention that the location is a prostitution house, while later and more family-friendly versions of the track call it a gambling house where many people have lost their money and their pride. 

A popular variation of the lyrics from UK band "The Animals" can be read below:


There is a house way down in New OrleansThey call the Rising SunAnd it's been the ruin of many a poor boyAnd God, I know I'm one



Mother was a tailor, yeah, yeahSewed my Levi jeansMy father was a gamblin' man, yeah, yeahDown, way down in New Orleans



Now the only thing a gamblin' man ever needsIs a suitcase, Lord, and a trunkAnd the only time a fool like him is satisfiedIs when he's all stone-cold drunk

House Of The Rising Sun Meaning


No matter what version you come across, what the tempo is, or what key it's being played in, the meanings behind the lyrics are all telling the same story for the most part.

The temptation that is described in the House Of The Rising Sun can be money, alcohol, sex, or anything of that nature. The narrator is having trouble staying away and is telling the tale so that the lister doesn't fall into the same trap. 

On top of that, the versions also mention a parent struggling with the same types of impulses that the narrator is, signifying that there is a vicious cycle of self-sabotage at play. Corruption of the heart often takes parents and their children down the same paths.

This song has resonated with many listeners for such a long time now because of the fact that it is so relatable. The lyrics themselves mention that the location has been the ruin of many people before, just like all of the common vices that we face throughout all stages of life, no matter what century we're in.

Popular Variations Of House Of The Rising Sun


The most popular cover of this song was performed by The Animals in the 1960s. The arpeggiated take on the chord progression in this version is beyond special, and that is why so many cover versions just copy this one instead of the older versions of this song that can be found. 

Another stand-out version that I'm ashamed to say I've only heard for the first time recently was performed by stellar musician Nina Simone.

While this version is wildly different from The Animals' take on the folk song that came out shortly after, it's refreshing and emotionally vibrant in its rhythmic interpretation in a similar way that the guitar arpeggiation is refreshing. 



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Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, features, nursery rhymes, and DJ drops, she currently spends her time engulfed in creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her most recent creative collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!

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