Hilton Valentine, founding guitarist of the 60s group the Animals, has died aged 77.
Valentine’s death was confirmed by the band’s label ABKCO Music, who wrote in a statement on Twitter on Saturdy night: “Our deepest sympathies go out to Hilton Valentine’s family and friends on his passing this morning, at the age of 77.”
“A founding member and original guitarist of the Animals, Valentine was a pioneering guitar player influencing the sound of rock and roll for decades to come.”
Valentine, from North Shields near Newcastle, formed the Animals in 1963 alongside fellow north-easterners singer Eric Burdon, bassist Chas Chandler, organist Alan Price and drummer John Steel.
The band’s most famous song, a cover version of the blues standard The House Of The Rising Sun, topped the charts in both the UK and the US in 1964. They then had a string of hits with other reworkings of classic blues songs such as Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood and We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, before the band fell apart in the late 1960s.
Burdon paid tribute to Valentine on Instagram, writing: “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 North Shields to the entire world…Rock In Peace.”
Valentine’s part in their success has entered the annals of rock history, with his Rising Sun intro familiar to millions of budding guitarists around the world.
The critic Colin Larkin summed up the dramatic impact of the song in his Virgin Encyclopaedia of Popular Music: “The combination of Valentine’s now legendary but simplistic guitar introduction and [Alan] Price’s shrill organ complemented [Eric] Burdon’s remarkable mature and bloodcurdling vocal.”