The Animals guitarist and founding member Hilton Valentine has died. He was 77.
The news was confirmed by record label Abkco who reported that Valentine passed away on Friday (January 29). No cause of death has yet been given.
The label paid an emotive tribute to the “pioneering” musician. “Our deepest sympathies go out to Hilton Valentine’s family and friends on his passing this morning, at the age of 77,” they wrote.
“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.”
They added: “We at Abkco have been privileged to serve as stewards of The Animals catalog and his passing is felt in a truly profound way by the entire Abkco family.”
Our deepest sympathies go out to @HiltonValentine'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. pic.twitter.com/gSUyVN0WWS
— ABKCO Music & Records (@ABKCO) January 29, 2021
Valentine was responsible for the riff on one of the band’s most well-known songs, ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’. The song reached Number 1 in the UK, US and Canada in 1964.
Other hits included ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, ‘It’s My Life’ and ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’.
He was recruited for the band by other fellow founding members Eric Burdon, Chas Chandler, and Alan Price.
In an interview with Guitar International, founding member Eric Burdon talked about Valentine’s impact on the band.
“It really was Hilton who made the early Animals a rock band because I don’t think the element of rock was in the band until we found him.
“In those days, Hilton wasn’t just playing rock ‘n’ roll, he looked rock ‘n’ roll. Here was a guy with the greased mop of hair combed back, cheap leather jacket, winkle picker shoes, black jeans and a smile on his face playing through an echoplex, which was a secret weapon back then.”
Valentine left The Animals in 1966 and continued to work as both a solo artist and as part of a number of other groups.