Hilton Valentine, founding guitarist of the 60s group the Animals, has died at the age of 77. The band’s label ABKCO confirmed the news with a statement on Friday. “Our deepest sympathies go out to [Valentine]’s family and friends on his passing this morning, at the age of 77,” the label 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.” A cause of death has not yet been revealed.
Born in North Shields, UK, in 1943, Valentine got his first guitar when he was 13 and was influenced by the skiffle craze in the 1950s. “What drew me to the guitar was seeing Lonnie Donegan doing “Rock Island Line” on television, on a show called the The Six Five Special,” he told Modern Guitars in 2006. “I wanted to play guitar after seeing that, and of course, after hearing Chuck Berry and seeing him do the duck walk.” Valentine co-founded the Animals in 1963 with singer Eric Burdon, bassist Chas Chandler, organist Alan Price, and drummer John Steel. A year later, the band released their self-titled debut album, which included their take on the blues standard ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’. Landing at the top of the charts in the UK and the US, the cover featured Valentino’s widely recognized arpeggio opening riff, which has inspired countless budding guitarists over the decades.
In addition to ‘House of the Rising Sun’, The Animals’ original lineup was responsible for a string of rock classics including ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, ‘We Gotta Get Out of the Place’, and ‘It’s My Life’. Valentine left the group in 1966, though he joined several reunions over the years. “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,” Burdon said in an interview with guitarist and journalist Tom Guerra for Guitar International. “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.”
Along with the rest of the original Animals, Valentine was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Eric Burdon took to social media to pay tribute to his late colleague, 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 the North Shields to the entire world…Rock In Peace.”
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
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