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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Maggie Roche: An appreciation

"Hammond Song"

In all of contemporary pop music there is no more wonderful and beloved group than the Roches—the trio of singer-songwriter sisters from Park Ridge, N.J. who took the Greenwich Village folk club scene by storm in the mid-70s.

Oldest sister Maggie, who was joined first by middle sister Terre (Paul Simon enlisted them for harmony vocals on his 1972 album There Goes Rhymin' Simon after they attended his songwriting seminar) and then youngest sister Suzzy, died Saturday (Jan. 21) at 65.

"Friends, my dear, beautiful sister Maggie passed away today after a long struggle with cancer," Suzzy wrote on the Roches' Facebook page. "She was a private person, too sensitive and shy for this world, but brimming with life, love, and talent. I want to let you know how grateful she was to everyone who listened and understood her through her music and her songs."

Foremost among those legions was Liz Rosenberg, the legendary press agent who worked with the Roches during their 1979-1985 tenure as Warner Bros. Records recording artists.

"So sad by the loss of one of our great idols--the incredible Maggie Roche," Rosenberg said via email. "So many happy shared memories. As her sister said so perfectly, she’s an angel: She felt the world’s pain and simultaneously had a sense of happy wonder when something good happened--a magical combination."

As for Maggie Roche's voice, it was "one of a kind," Rosenberg continued. "Maggie was unforgettable when singing solo, and their voices collectively have lived with me all these years deep in my heart. I’m sad--as are the multitudes who loved how special Maggie Roche was."

Celebrated singer-songwriter Maria McKee was also grief-stricken.

"One of my favorite records of all time," she said in a Facebook post, referring to the Roches' eponymous 1979 debut album and posting its "Hammond Song."

"I treasure that album as one of my favorites," McKee added by email. "Every summer when I go to Ireland to visit my 'family'---my two best friends Denis and Aoife Roche (!) and their three kids who are my godchildren--we know it's all coming together when we settle into the house by the sea in Schull West Cork and 'Hammond Song' comes on the 'summer shuffle [play]' to always remind us when we feel the most relaxed and happy together."

The Roches' 1990 We Three Kings, meanwhile, remains one of the most delightfully creative Christmas albums of all.

Besides recording with the Roches, Maggie and Suzzy Roche recorded together as a duo.

"After decades of singing, writing, traveling and performing together, we spent the last month-and-a-half helping each other through her final journey," wrote Suzzy. "Now I have to let her go. I’m heartbroken. I adored her. She was smart, wickedly funny, and authentic--not a false bone in her body--a brilliant songwriter, with a distinct unique perspective, all heart and soul. It’ll be hard for me to carry on without her."



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