MARICOPA, The Animals were one of the most seminal rock bands of the 1960s. They combined American blues, R&B, rock and pop with the haunted wails of lead singer Eric Burdon to take the world by storm, along with British contemporaries the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
In 1964, the single “House of the Rising Sun” was a No. 1 hit for the Animals in the United States and the United Kingdom. But the Animals were far from a one-hit wonder, amassing 10 top 20 singles on the U.S. and U.K. charts, including “It’s My Life,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “I’m Crying” and “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”
Burdon has also maintained a solo career, with his latest album, “Til Your River Runs Dry,” released in 2013.
The rock legend will be in Maricopa on Saturday night to play a free show at the amphitheater outside Ak-Chin UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. He spoke with the Casa Grande Dispatch about the Animals’ storied career, the state of rock music today and his friendships with iconic musicians Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix.
CGD: Other than “House of the Rising Sun,” which Animals song resonates the most with you, and what are your favorite songs to perform live?
Burdon: “It’s My Life” is still one of my favorites to sing, but I can tell you that I still get a kick out of the audience singing along on any of them. It seems to happen the most with “We Gotta Get Out of this Place.” It seems that just everybody can relate to that song on some level.
CGD: Your singing was unique for its time. It was edgier than other singers. How did your vocal style develop?
Burdon: They say I was born shouting the blues. A few years later, my voice was too loud and probably too rough for the choir, so they kicked me out. When I heard Ray Charles, I wanted to sing like him. Otherwise, I think I just got lucky.
CGD: In other interviews, you’ve said you have an intensely personal connection to “House of the Rising Sun.” Can you explain your relationship with that song and its meaning?
Burdon: It was one I’d heard done as a folk song, even before I heard (Bob) Dylan’s version on his first record. There was a coal mine in Newcastle (England) called the Rising Sun. My father took me there and left me alone in the dark for a few very long moments. I knew then that I couldn’t possibly spend my life down there, not to mention that I was an asthmatic. “House of the Rising Sun” was my ticket out of a dark, gray existence.
CGD: Along with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the Animals were part of a pioneering sound that came from Great Britain and influenced countless bands. How would you describe that sound and its importance to rock music?
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