Eric Burdon isn’t so sure. The lead singer of The Animals, the group that popularized “House of the Rising Sun” for good in 1964, visits New Orleans often — and wonders what people here think of him for turning their city into a prostitute’s legend.
“They’re trying to build up tourism, and here’s this Brit singing about a whorehouse,” he says, chuckling.
When he visits, everyone has a story — a notion about where the “real” house is or was.
“People would come up to me and say, ‘You want to know where the real House of the Rising Sun is? And I’d say, ‘I’ve heard that one before,’” he says. “Then I started going along for the ride.”
“I’d go to women’s prisons, coke dealers’ houses, insane asylums, men’s prisons, private parties. They just wanted to get me there.”
But the St. Louis Street building — well, let’s just say Burdon connected with it at once when the owner invited him over. She made him sing “House of the Rising Sun” a capella for 40 minutes, he jokes. “What can I tell you?” he says. “The house was talking to me.”
Was there ever really a House of the Rising Sun? No one can say for sure. But in the end, it matters little. Because in the universe of music, in the world of Eric Burdon and a New Orleans French Quarter happy to latch onto any exuberant myth, the legend itself may well be enough.