Hilton Valentine, the guitarist and founding member of the Animals, has died aged 77.
Born in North Shields in 1943, Hilton was heavily influenced by the musical skiffle trend before he went on to form the Animals with Eric Burdon, Alan Price, Chas Chandler and John Steel. The British band went on to establish themselves as pioneers of contemporary rock music and their cover version of blues track ‘The House of The Rising Sun’ topped the UK and US charts in 1964 and cemented their legacy.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to Hilton Valentine’s family and friends on his passing this morning, at the age of 77,” the band’s label ABKCO Music, wrote in a statement.
Adding: “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.”
While the Animals went on to enjoy major critical acclaim, Valentine departed the group in the bid to forge his own solo career after the original line-up of the band called it a day in 1966. While the Animals continued with a revolving door policy of members, Valentine quietly went about his solo business with prolific effect.
Despite enjoying his own level of success, Valentine did return to the band on several occasions to take part in a number of reunions and even toured with leading man Burdon in 2007. Reacting to the news, Burdon said: “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.”
See the tribute, below.