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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Backstage Manager(inactive) Which Genre is it? (House of the Rising Sun) (86* d) RE: Which Genre is it? 29 Jun 04


"House of the Rising Sun" aka "Rising Sun Blues," is a traditional folk song that has been filtered through the folk process.

As Alan Lomax, and others would point out, traditional blues are a form of folk music. Was Lead Belly, who recorded "House of the Rising Sun" several times, a folk singer or a blues singer? The answer is yes. But not all blues is folk music. When Ornette Coleman played an original composition in an avante-garde jazz setting using a 12-bar setting, he could, rightly, call it a blues, or jazz. But it wasn't folk music by any stretch. And when Louis Armstrong played "St. James Infirmary," it could, rightly, be called jazz, blues, or folk music.

Too many people confuse the terms "folk" and "blues" with the style categories of the music industry, i.e. "folk" = acoustic guitars, "blues" = 12 bar repetitive patterns. It's not that simple.

When categorizing music, the connections of traditionas, styles and processes have to be understood.

The Animals were a rock band who used a blues base to much of their music. Their version of "House of the Rising Sun" was based on Bob Dylan's. Bob Dylan's was based on Dave Van Ronk's. Dave Van Ronk, was a friend of mine and he told me he based his version on elements in Josh White's. Josh White was part of a circle that included Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie. The other two may well have learned it from one or the other.

The earliest recording of "House of the Rising Sun" was as "Rising Sun Blues," by Clarence "Tom" Ashley in 1932. Ashley was a Southern, white Appalachian artist. Whether Ashley got the song from a white, or black, source, I don't know.


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