September 17, 2013

"But no act of musical theft is quite as infamous as the one concerning Dave Van Ronk’s arrangement of 'House of the Rising Sun.'"

"Van Ronk, the inspiration behind the forthcoming Coen Brothers film, Inside Llewen Davis, took the grim and foreboding old weeper—about a young woman afraid she’ll spend the rest of her life in a whorehouse in New Orleans—and brilliantly made it his own."
Van Ronk recalled that after Bob Dylan had learned Dave’s version of “House of the Rising Sun,” Dylan approached him and asked if he could record it for his first album. Van Ronk replied, “I’d rather you not, I’m planning on recording it soon myself.” Dylan said “uh oh.” Van Ronk had to stop performing it because everyone accused him of getting it from Dylan. However, Dylan himself had to stop playing it when the Animals made a top hit out of it, and people accused him of getting it from them.
You can listen to Van Ronk's "House of the Rising Sun" at the link, and here's the big "Down In Washington Square" collection of Van Ronk's music that's coming out in conjunction with the movie.

Here's Dylan's version. And everyone knows the great Animals one.

24 comments:

BDNYC said...

I just listened for the first time to Conway Twitty's version. Pretty dang good.

Fritz said...

Thank you.

Sam L. said...

There is
No House
Of The Risin' Sun
At the Es
Quire link...

Broomhandle said...

Unsurprisingly, it's the Frijid Pink version that's favored by my 16 year-old and his friends.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Scorcese covered that story well in "No Direction Home."

GrandpaMark said...

"That" led me to "this" and a video.
Printed Lyrics are not exactly same as Von Ronk. I fixed it.

Never expected to hear it again.

Every time my baby and me we go uptown, Police come in and knock me down. Cocaine (runnin') all around my brain.

Hey baby, better come here quick, This old cocaine is 'bout to make me sick. Cocaine (runnin')all around my brain.

Yonder come my baby, she's dressed in red, She's got a shot-gun, Says she's gonna kill me dead. Cocaine (runnin')all around my brain.

Earnest Prole said...

The story told concisely (and candidly) in No Direction Home.

Ann Althouse said...

@sam

Maybe a problem with yr browser.

It's there.

Chance said...

Everyone should check out the cat power version. I'm pretty sure it is the original.

St. George said...

We Gotta Get Outta This Place

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

St. George said...

"Spill the Wine"

"Low Rider"

"Cisco Kid"

Dem wuz de daze.

'The World is a Ghetto"

Earnest Prole said...

Van Ronk’s interview in No Direction Home contrasts his essential sweetness with Cutthroat Dylan in his Musical Expeditionary (read: thieving) period.

Darleen said...

I was 11 when I started taking guitar lessons ...

IIRC, House of the Rising Sun was the 4th song I learned.

Bob Ellison said...

Yeah, nobody ever thought of that chord progression before.

Amexpat said...

Just finished reading Van Ronk's book, "The Mayor of MacDougal Street" (very much worth reading if you have an interest in that period), and he didn't come across as bitter about this, saying that everyone was borrowing from everyone then.

His version is nice, but was not top 40 material like the Animals' version.

Michael K said...

I don't know about this. Read only part. The best example I know of is the song, in "Singin' in the Rain," of a Donald O'Conner number called "Make 'em laugh" that is stolen from Cole Porter's piece, "Be a clown." It's the same music.

Joe said...

A) I hate this song.

B) I hate Van Ronk's version even more. The sound of cats being fed into a blender would be superior. Why do people give a pass to crap like this? Because it's "folk" music?

eddie willers said...

Growing up in Atlanta, all the kids would call in to WQXI ("Quixie in Dixie") to vote for the Top 5 records at 5:00 and Top 10 at 10:00.

After I Want To Hold Your Hand was released, it became almost mandatory to burn the lines and keep it #1.

It held it for (I think) a year.

The song that finally toppled it (and I will never forget) was The Animals' House Of The Rising Sun

At least it was a worthy song that killed the King.

Robert Cook said...

"Unsurprisingly, it's the Frijid Pink version that's favored by my 16 year-old and his friends."

It's surprising that a 16 year-old and his friends would even know who Frijid Pink even are--uh, were!

Robert Cook said...

Just listened to Van Ronk's version for the first time ever, and the fragment of Dylan's version heard in the link to NO DIRECTION HOME is the only time I've ever heard Dylan sing the song.

Dylan's version is better. Van Ronk's is annoyingly mannered. Dylan's is mannered, too, but in a way that seems spontaneous and natural, (even if it's not).

This brings up the artificiality of much of the early NYC folk scene. I take it that those on the scene were concerned with "authenticity" and truth, dismissing what they perceived as inauthentic, plastic, or insincere, and yet neither Dylan nor Van Ronk can be realistically assumed to have grown up naturally singing like backwoods hillbillies...they appropriated a style completely foreign to them in the name of "authenticity." They were fakes!

Artists often consciously adopt or concoct styles of expression that are not "natural" to them but that suit their expressive intentions for the long or short term, so I don't mean to knock Dylan or Van Ronk for this, (well...not much). This reflects more on the self-important humorlessness of many of the "purists" in the folk-scene audience. Just think of it: affluent cosmopolitans assuming to be arbiters of what what was authentically "folk!"

(Similarly, there came to be a segment of the punk music audience who adopted and who presumed to assert a strict orthodoxy as to what was or was not "punk," a contradiction in terms. "Punk" began in NYC as an assertively heterodox music scene marked by no single style. The bands were consciously playing at and reconstructing from varied available sources and styles their own versions of what constituted "rock and roll." What the scene produced was essentially "art music" in a pop cultural milieu, made not by angry teenagers but by relatively sophisticated adults. The best of the NY bands--and those who emerged soon after across the nation and in England--sounded like only themselves and no one else. The best "punk" bands were those who sounded least like the popular--or orthodox--conception of punk.)

Ann Althouse said...

"This brings up the artificiality of much of the early NYC folk scene. I take it that those on the scene were concerned with "authenticity" and truth, dismissing what they perceived as inauthentic, plastic, or insincere, and yet neither Dylan nor Van Ronk can be realistically assumed to have grown up naturally singing like backwoods hillbillies...they appropriated a style completely foreign to them in the name of "authenticity." They were fakes!"

But Dylan always knew the way it was fake and synthesized everything and became something highly original.

And "House" was never an important song for Dylan. Dylan fans hardly care about that first album. I didn't even want it, back in the 60s, when I became a fan at the time of "Bringing It All Back Home" and got all the earlier albums, but not that first one.

In fact, somebody gave me the first album as a gift, at a time when I listened to Dylan all the time, and I took it back to the store. I didn't want it.

Jessica said...

I've heard (and sung) a really cool version of "Amazing Grace" to the House of the Rising Sun tune. Try it. Gives the song a whole new mood.

Dad said...

I like Amazing Grace to the tune of The Theme from Gilligan's Island. Talk about a whole new mood.

sonicfrog said...

Jessica said...

I've heard (and sung) a really cool version of "Amazing Grace" to the House of the Rising Sun tune. Try it. Gives the song a whole new mood.


Even better... Sing it to the theme of Gilligan's Island!