Burdon was lead singer of the Animals, formed during 1962 in Newcastle upon Tyne. The original band was the Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo, which formed in 1958; they became the Animals shortly after Burdon joined the band. The Animals combined electric blues with rock; in the US they were considered one of the leading bands of the British Invasion. Along with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Hollies, the Dave Clark Five, and the Kinks, the group introduced contemporary British music and fashion to American audiences. Burdon's powerful voice can be heard on the Animals' singles "The House of the Rising Sun", "Baby Let Me Take You Home", "I'm Crying", "Boom Boom", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", "Bring It On Home to Me", "We Gotta Get out of This Place", "It's My Life", "Don't Bring Me Down", and “See See Rider.”
By May 1965, keyboardist Alan Price left the group and Chandler left in mid-1966 after recording "Don't Bring Me Down," which essentially marked the end of the original Animals. Burdon and drummer Barry Jenkins reformed the group as Eric Burdon and the Animals. This more psychedelic incarnation featured future Family member John Weider and was sometimes called Eric Burdon and the New Animals. Eric Burdon and the New Animals embraced psychedelia to the hilt amid the full bloom of the Summer of Love. This group's hits included the ballad "San Franciscan Nights", the grunge–heavy metal-pioneering "When I Was Young", "Monterey", the anti-Vietnam anthem "Sky Pilot.”
In 1969, Burdon pulled the plug on what was left of the Animals. He hooked up with a Los Angeles-based group called War, and started a subsequent solo career.
Eric Burdon started out his young adult life as one of a bunch of people who hung out at the local jazz club, The Downbeat. He describes his friends as "like a motorcycle gang... without the motorcycles" – they were tough, hard-drinking, and listened to American music. Burdon and fellow rocker and guitarist, American Jimi Hendrix became very close friends in the mid sixties and remained so up until Hendrix's death in 1970; Burdon was in fact the person Hendrix's girlfriend called when she found him overdosed on drugs.
Burdon was also a good friend of the Beatles' John Lennon and was mentioned in one of their songs, "I Am the Walrus" as "the eggman". Eric states, "The nickname stuck after a wild experience I’d had at the time with a Jamaican girlfriend called Sylvia. I was up early one morning cooking breakfast, naked except for my socks, and she slid up beside me and slipped an amyl nitrite capsule under my nose. As the fumes set my brain alight and I slid to the kitchen floor, she reached to the counter and grabbed an egg, which she cracked into the pit of my belly. The white and yellow of the egg ran down my naked front and Sylvia began to show me one Jamaican trick after another. I shared the story with John at a party at a Mayfair flat one night with a handful of others." Lennon, finding the story amusing and hilarious, replied, “Go on, go get it, Eggman”, incorporating the incident into his song in tribute to the unique experience.