By the time The Animals released “It’s My Life” as a single in 1965, the band was already one of the hottest acts of the British Invasion. A year earlier, the group scored a #1 hit in the U.S. and the U.K. with their interpretation of the traditional folk classic “The House of the Rising Sun,” and kicked off 1965 with 4 consecutive Top 10 singles in the U.K., including a cover of Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” and “We Gotta Get out of This Place,” a smash composed by the prolific Brill Building songwriting duo of Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil. The band was riding high on songs that struck a chord with the socially conscious 60s pop movement. It was the deep gritty vocals of lead singer Eric Burdon that truly defined The Animals and their distinctive brand of soulful blues-rock.
Eric Burdon’s “Geordie” Origins
Eric grew up in a poor working-class home in Northeast England in an area called Tyneside. Many of the workers that live in the Tyneside area are miners that are referred to as “Geordies.” That nickname comes from a famous English engineer named George Stephenson, who was called the ‘Father of Railways.’ Among his many accomplishments, Stephenson invented a safety lamp for coal miners, known as “Geordie lamps.” The “Geordies” are also known for their distinctive dialect and accent. Eric grew up with a “Geordie” accent and had a difficult childhood that he has referred to as a “nightmare,” rife with abuse and ridicule. Eric put his rage and frustration into his powerful vocal style, that made him a prophet for the underprivileged and downtrodden, and one of the most influential singers of the rock era.
In 1965, producer Mickie Most was looking for new material for The Animals, to continue their place atop the pop charts, competing with other British Invasion titans The Beatles, The Hollies, The Rolling Stones, and Herman’s Hermits. Since The Animals struck pay dirt with a song from Brill Building writers Mann & Weil, Mickie turned to another Brill duo to pen something that fit the band’s popular style. The duo was Roger Atkins and Carl D’Errico, who came up with an angry declaration of independence they titled “It’s My Life,” and Mickie instantly believed it was perfect for Eric Burdon and The Animals.
“It’s My Life” lands The Animals Back on the Charts
“It’s My Life” became the sixth Top 10 single in the U.K., for The Animals, peaking at #7, rising to #1 in Sweden, #2 in Canada, #5 in the Netherlands, #10 in Australia, and #23 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Eric Burdon’s Lyrical Mistake
During the recording session of “It’s My Life,” Burdon sang the wrong lyrics, but the mistake wasn’t discovered until the song was completely mixed and mastered in the studio. The version that was released and played on radio stations around the world is the version with Burdon’s blunder.
Burdon sang “Show me I’m wrong, hurt me some time,” while the correct lyric that Roger Atkins wrote is “Sure, I’ll do wrong, hurt you some time.” Obviously, the oversight didn’t affect the song’s success. “It’s My Life” became a celebrated anthem of emancipation around the world and is cited as one of the biggest early influences for superstars Bruce Springsteen, and Jon Bon Jovi.