Eric Burdon, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer as the frontman of The Animals, turned 77 years old yesterday, and celebrated with a show at the City Winery in New York. Patti Smith not only attended, but presented him with a cake before he sang the Animals 1965 hit, “It’s My Life.” She then sang and danced joyously to the show’s final song, a cover of Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming.” Watch them in the videos, below.
At a 2015 show at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif., Smith said The Animals’ version of “The House of the Rising Sun” was the first song she was able to hit all the notes on, as an aspiring teenaged vocalist.
“Eric Burdon and the Animals … were for us, they were for the disenfranchised, the mavericks, the black sheep,” she said in Santa Barbara. “I say this because tonight we all got to meet Eric and I didn’t get to express this little story to him … I am singing today because I hit all the notes.”
The Animals are beloved by other New Jersey rockers, too. In 1995, Jon Bon Jovi and Burdon duetted on “It’s My Life” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” at a concert celebrating the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland (see video below). And Burdon performed with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at 2012 and 2013 concerts (see video below).
Springsteen also talked, at length, about the Animals at his 2012 keynote speech at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. Here are some excerpts:
For some, they were just another one of the really good beat groups that came of the ’60s. But to me, The Animals were a revelation. The first records with full-blown class consciousness that I had ever heard. “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” … That’s every song I’ve ever written. Yeah. That’s all of them. I’m not kidding, either. That’s “Born to Run,” “Born in the USA,” everything I’ve done for the past 40 years, including all the new ones. But that struck me so deep. It was the first time I felt I heard something come across the radio that mirrored my home life, my childhood. …
They weren’t nice. They didn’t curry favor, you know. They were like aggression personified. “It’s my life, I’ll do what I want.” They were cruel, which was so freeing. When you saw Eric Burdon, he was like your shrunken daddy with a wig on. He never had a kid’s face. He always had a little man’s face, you know.
And he couldn’t dance. And they put him in a suit, but it was like putting a gorilla in a suit. You could tell he was like, “Fuck that shit, man.” He didn’t want it. And then he had that voice that was like, I don’t know, Howlin’ Wolf or something, coming out of some 17- or 18-year-old kid. I don’t know how it happened. I found their cruelty so freeing. What was that great verse in “It’s My Life”? “It’s a hard world to get a break in, all the good things have been taken.” And then, “Though dressed in these rags I’ll wear sable someday, hear what I say. I’m gonna ride the serpent. No more time spent sweating rent.” Then that beautiful, “It’s my life. Show me I’m wrong, hurt me sometime. But someday I’ll treat you real fine.” I love that.
And then they had the name. The name was very different from the Beatles, or Herman’s Hermits, or Freddie and the Dreamers. The name was unforgiving, and final, and irrevocable. I mean, it was in your face. It was the most unapologetic group name until the Sex Pistols came along.
“Badlands,” “Prove It All Night,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town” was filled with The Animals.