Maggie Roche (1951-2017)
January 22, 2017 1:15 AM   Subscribe

Maggie Roche, co-founder of the idiosyncratic and influential sister trio The Roches, passed away on Saturday, January 21. Her sister and bandmate Suzzy Roche announced the death on Facebook and said the cause was breast cancer. NYT Obituary.

Prior to forming the Roches, Maggie and sister Terre performed as a duo before Paul Simon asked them to contribute vocals to "Was A Sunny Day" on his 1973 album, There Goes Rhymin' Simon (YT) (Spotify).

Maggie and Terre subsequently released Seductive Reasoning (Spotify) (YT) in 1975, with contributions from Simon and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. Maggie’s outstanding compositions include "Down the Dream" (lyrics), “West Virginia” (lyrics), and "Malachy's" (lyrics).

Adding youngest sister Suzzy in 1977, they properly re-christened themselves as The Roches, releasing a stunning self-titled debut album (YT) (Spotify) two years later. The album was produced ("in audio verité") by Robert Fripp, and included the equally stellar talents of Tony Levin, Larry Fast, and Jim Maelen. It opened with "We", a statement of purpose whose sardonic lyrics and avant-folksy vocals would come to define the group's sound, although Maggie's "Hammond Song" is a far better example of their incomparable vocal alchemy. Her song "The Married Men" was later recorded to much greater commercial effect by singer Phoebe Snow (and performed with Linda Ronstadt on Saturday Night Live in 1979). The album went on to become a cult classic, and remains their most popular and influential work.

The group's sophomore effort, Nurds (1980) (YT) (Spotify), couldn't help but pale in comparison, featuring as it did only three of Maggie's compositions, but Rolling Stone (in a discomfitingly sexist review) argued for them as the album's cornerstones: "The Boat Family", "One Season", and "This Feminine Position". Continuing the Paul Simon association, the album was produced by Simon's longtime producer, Roy Halee, and featured the Patti Smith Group's rhythm section, Jay Dee Daugherty and Fred Smith.

Robert Fripp returned to the producer's chair for their third album, 1982's Keep On Doing (YT) (Spotify). Maggie's presence as a songwriter was diminished even further, with only two (admittedly gorgeous) contributions, "Losing True" and "The Scorpion Lament". Fripp, Levin, and drummer Bill Bruford provided backing.

The group's final album for Warner Bros., Another World (YT) (Spotify), contained no songs written exclusively by Maggie. The album's credits indicate a jumble of covers, songs written by other family members, and extensive co-writing. Up to five producers were enlisted across the album's ten songs.

The following year, the Roches appeared on Philip Glass's Songs from Liquid Days (YT) (Spotify), singing lead vocals on the (quasi-)title track and backing Laurie Anderson on "Forgetting."

The Roches' music during the next two decades continued down an increasingly smooth and quirk-free path, settling into an agreeable form of harmony-driven AOR rather than the charmingly rootsy strangeness of their initial releases. They released one more full-length album, Speak (YT) (Spotify), in the 1980s. The 1990s were a mixed bag, beginning with a Christmas album, We Three Kings (YT) (Spotify), in 1990. A Dove followed in 1992, as did an album of children's songs, Will You Be My Friend?, in 1994. The Roches landed on revered indie label Rykodisc for 1995's Can We Go Home Now (YT) (Spotify).

Suzzy and Maggie made two charming and unvarnished albums as a duo in the 2000s: Zero Church (2002) (YT) (Spotify) and Why The Long Face? (2004) (YT) (Spotify).

Their final studio album was 2007's Moonswept (YT) (Spotify), whose production by Stewart Lerman took a page from the clean, modern folk-pop of spiritual descendants like the Weepies.

The Roches stopped touring in 2007, after the release of Moonswept.

The group's various other musical activities, collaborations, and guest appearances can be found in their extensive Discography.

Misc. YouTube live ephemera:
- A full concert from the Capitol Theatre (Passaic, NJ, 10/21/1978)
- "Hammond Song" (Rockpalast, 11/3/1982)
- "Mr. Sellack" (1980)
- "One Season" (1983)
- The Roches on Night Music (1989)

Maggie is survived by her sisters, Suzzy and Terre, as well as her mother, Jude Roche; her brother, Dave; her son, Ed McTeigue; and her partner, Michael McCarthy.
posted by mykescipark (62 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by Lyme Drop at 1:20 AM on January 22, 2017


sex is for children
posted by philip-random at 1:40 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


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posted by jozifd at 3:08 AM on January 22, 2017


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I just discovered the Roches last year and fell in love. What an amazing talent. And what an amazing post! ❤️
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:02 AM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


Like a few people, I suspect I came to The Roches because Fripp produced their first album, and I read about it in (I think, startlingly) Omni. His solo on Hammond Song is still one of my favourite Fripp solos. However, I'm glad that I did that, as I probably wouldn't have found them otherwise (actually, it turned out that I'd already got them performing Dylan's Clothes Line Saga on a cassette tape, and although I loved it, I had no way of finding out who that was). Once I had, I was transported by the songs and the performances, and actually imported some of their albums from the US, as they were impossible to find over here. In later years I discovered that making a record of acoustic performers that presents them honestly and arrestingly is remarkably difficult. I also found that there were very few people with guitars and voice boxes who could match them - a wonderfully humane combination of intelligence, compassion and - most importantly - humour.

Hammond Song is one of the very few songs by someone else I've bothered to learn. I would have learned Pretty and High, which is just astounding, if it were appropriate, but it somehow wouldn't be, so I didn't.
posted by Grangousier at 4:33 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


We love them. Their Christmas album still gets a lot of play in our house. Saw them in concert a few years ago, too, very fun.

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posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:42 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


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posted by nicething at 4:47 AM on January 22, 2017


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posted by Songdog at 4:57 AM on January 22, 2017


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posted by kinnakeet at 5:02 AM on January 22, 2017


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posted by valkane at 5:05 AM on January 22, 2017


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posted by Thorzdad at 5:07 AM on January 22, 2017


They say we meet again
On down the line
Where is on down the line
How far away?
posted by moonmilk at 5:27 AM on January 22, 2017 [8 favorites]


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posted by readery at 5:27 AM on January 22, 2017


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Love, love, love the Roches and so sorry to hear this. After I saw them perform the Hallelujah Chorus on SNL in 1979 (here's another amazing version) I was addicted to their music. I'd never heard anything like it.
posted by pangolin party at 5:40 AM on January 22, 2017


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posted by p3t3 at 5:41 AM on January 22, 2017


No. Fuck.
posted by pracowity at 5:44 AM on January 22, 2017


Goddammit.

I saw The Roches in concert a couple of times. At one, the ticket spelled their last name r-o-a-c-h.
posted by adamrice at 6:06 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Their Christmas album still gets a lot of play in our house.

Love love love their Christmas album. It's like you're walking out and there's some people on the street corner with an old Casio keyboard singing carols... except they're really fuckin' good.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:31 AM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


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posted by hippybear at 6:33 AM on January 22, 2017


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posted by skyscraper at 6:40 AM on January 22, 2017


Fantastic post, terrible news. Thank you. I have been in love with them since the mid-eighties.

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posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:42 AM on January 22, 2017


She got out before it hit the fan.

Rest in peace.
posted by craniac at 6:50 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


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posted by Bob Regular at 7:11 AM on January 22, 2017



posted by Gelatin at 7:21 AM on January 22, 2017


Their Christmas album still gets a lot of play in our house.

It's not Christmas until you play We Three Kings at least 5 times. My husband hates it but I will never go a holiday season without listening to the Roaches. Fuck, and Maggie was the alto; that means she's me. The part that I sing, the part I have had memorized since I was eight, and she is now dead.

I also have the album Keep On Doing, and The Scorpion's Lament is one of the highlights, definitely. My dad alsp used to sing "Mr. Sellack" around the house. "I won't be nasty to customers no more./When they send their burger back I'll tell them that/I'm sorry." She sounds really sorry on the track, too!!!


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posted by chainsofreedom at 7:32 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


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posted by gingerbeer at 7:39 AM on January 22, 2017


My oldest brother recommended their Christmas album to me, and I liked it right away. So sorry to hear this.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:02 AM on January 22, 2017


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posted by peterkins at 8:13 AM on January 22, 2017


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posted by emmet at 8:25 AM on January 22, 2017


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posted by Samarium at 8:29 AM on January 22, 2017


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(great, definitive Roaches post, btw)
posted by Bron at 8:43 AM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


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posted by Windopaene at 8:49 AM on January 22, 2017


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(great post. thank you, sadly)
posted by blob at 9:17 AM on January 22, 2017


My FB post from last night: "I marched with 100,000 of my friends and neighbors. I marched with my mom and my grandmothers. I marched with Sobonfu Somé and Carrie Jo Stairs and JP Hartsong and Maggie Roche. And I marched with all of you."
posted by ottereroticist at 9:21 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Thanks for putting together such a great post.

Xo Roches.
posted by latkes at 9:49 AM on January 22, 2017


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(Fantastic post)
posted by pt68 at 9:57 AM on January 22, 2017


Sad news. RIP, Maggie.
posted by jonmc at 10:02 AM on January 22, 2017


Also, the Roches doing a nice cover of the Band's "Acadian Driftwood".
posted by jonmc at 10:04 AM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


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posted by languagehat at 11:19 AM on January 22, 2017


Oh, man, I loved their first album. How sad this news is.
posted by y2karl at 11:53 AM on January 22, 2017


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posted by Joey Michaels at 1:14 PM on January 22, 2017


(Also, apologies to those of you for whom this constitutes an example of the "Site of the Dead" phenomenon.)
posted by mykescipark at 1:21 PM on January 22, 2017


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posted by delfin at 1:22 PM on January 22, 2017


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posted by klausness at 1:46 PM on January 22, 2017


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posted by schmod at 2:32 PM on January 22, 2017


Love them so much, and loved them live. My favorite Roches story: The song "Big Nothing" is about their appearance on Saturday Night Live, where they sang "Hallelujah Chorus", and after which, everyone assured them, they would be huge rock stars. But being exposed to a national audience turned out to be "A Big Nothing", and their fan base remained niche -- nice, but niche.
posted by Modest House at 3:33 PM on January 22, 2017


Oh, I had barely just discovered Liquid Days :(

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posted by gusandrews at 4:21 PM on January 22, 2017


My first exposure to The Roches was a homework assignment to analyze and comment on My Sick Mind for a 200-level music class in college. Heard it once in a classroom as class was ending and probably 100 more times back in my dorm. I was so glad this served as an introduction to their music, and I listen to tons more of it over the years, but that song will always take me back to those two rooms.

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posted by SpiffyRob at 5:29 PM on January 22, 2017


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posted by doteatop at 5:51 PM on January 22, 2017


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posted by gudrun at 6:07 PM on January 22, 2017


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The roches are an acquired taste in music, and I am better to have acquired it. Thanks to Maggie for sharing her talent.
posted by holyrood at 6:45 PM on January 22, 2017


Thanks to Songs from Liquid Days, I have loved the Roches for decades.

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posted by Halloween Jack at 7:35 PM on January 22, 2017


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posted by DaddyNewt at 7:43 PM on January 22, 2017


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posted by chazlarson at 9:19 PM on January 22, 2017


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posted by ZeusHumms at 11:19 PM on January 22, 2017


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posted by Spatch at 12:31 AM on January 23, 2017


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posted by droplet at 10:40 AM on January 23, 2017


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(and another bravo for a great post).
posted by jabo at 4:51 PM on January 23, 2017


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posted by jabah at 7:14 PM on January 23, 2017


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posted by cluebucket at 8:49 PM on January 23, 2017


Back when I was homeless, and one of my sole possessions that I carried in my battered backpack was a cassette copy of Keep On Doing. This album pretty much saved my life. Fuck you, cancer.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:55 AM on January 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


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posted by On the Corner at 4:29 AM on January 25, 2017


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