Hilton Valentine, founding Animals guitarist, dies at 77

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Hilton Valentine, the founding guitarist of English rock and roll band The Animals who is credited with coming up with one of the most famous opening riffs of the 1960s, has died

LONDON — Hilton Valentine, the founding guitarist of the English rock and roll band The Animals who is credited with coming up with one of the most famous opening riffs of the 1960s, has died. He was 77.

The band’s label ABKCO Music confirmed that Valentine died on Friday, saying it was told of his death by his wife, Germaine Valentine.

“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,” the label said in a tweet.

Valentine, from North Shields in northeast England, formed The Animals in 1963 alongside singer Eric Burdon, bassist Chas Chandler, organist Alan Price and drummer John Steel.

The band’s most famous song, 1964′s “The House of the Rising Sun,” topped the charts in both the U.K. and the U.S. The song had such resonance in the U.S. that many people were surprised the band came from an industrial heartland of England.

Burdon paid tribute to Valentine on Instagram, 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.”

Valentine remained with the band for four years and is also heard on other classics by the band including “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.”

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and in recent years Valentine has been living in the U.S. state of Connecticut.