Singer, Maggie Roche Dies Aged 65

Maggie Roche, one of the three singing Roche sisters has passed.

Roche, a talented singer and songwriter whose unruffled alto complemented the voices of her two sisters Suzy and Terre, died on Saturday. She was 65. According to a statement by one of the sisters made available to the New York Times, Maggie Roche died of breast cancer. Suzy, who made this known, did not reveal where her sister died. The 59-year-old in a Facebook post paid homage to her older sister, describing her as introverted, but bustling with plenty of talent and a bubbly zest for life.

“She was a private person, too sensitive and shy for this world, but brimming with life, love, and talent. 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.”

Suzy went on to point out that her sister was extremely grateful to everyone that had listened to their music over the years, adding “it’ll be hard for me to carry on without her.” The Roches were raised in Park Ridge, New Jersey. In 1973, Maggie and Terre provided back-up on Paul Simon’s album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon after attending his songwriting seminar at New York University.

Their singing got them a record deal with Colombia Records, and as a pair they released their debut album Seductive Reasoning in 1975. Their younger sister, Suzy, later joined them and the duo became a trio. Their self-titled album was released in 1979. The Roches was produced by Robert Fripp, the experimental guitarist from the band King Crimson who brought his new wave skills to The Hammond Song.

Maggie Roche was born October 26, 1951 and sang in the Roman Catholic Church choirs with her two younger sisters. She started penning songs after she got a guitar for her birthday in 1964. When Suzy joined her sisters, the Roches became a singing sensation, playing local gigs in Greenwich Village. A popular song that they usually performed was a three-part harmony version of Handel’s “Hallelujah.”

The Roches never enjoyed mainstream success in terms of the number of albums sold. However, the sisters had a keen following and continued to record for Warner Bros., MCA and Rykodisc. Their songs were used in a soundtrack for Crossing Delancey in 1988. The Roches also voiced an episode of Steven Spielberg’s animation series, Tiny Toon Adventures.

The sisters released a Christmas album in 1990 entitled, We Three Kings. They followed it up with a children’s album, Will You Be My Friend?, in 1994. The group broke up in 1995 after the release of Can We Go Home Now? But Maggie and Suzy continued to make music together, releasing music in 2002 and 2004. However, the sisters came together to make a final album, Moonswept, in 2007.

Maggie Roche was the memorable of the three sisters. She developed an unusual pop-folk songwriting style laced with unpredictable melodic turns and often different from how her sisters diverged and harmonized. She was responsible for most of the songwriting on the album and the songs chronicled different experiences of a feminine perspective from free-spirited independence on The Hammond Song to sexual liaisons on The Married Men.

Maggie Roche was part of more than a dozen albums during her lifetime. Maggie’s enriching contralto was complimented with Terre’s soprano and Suzy’s mid-range abilities. They might never have sold out crowds, but their peculiar sound and endearing nonconformity helped them score points with devoted fans that spanned decades.

In Big Nutin, a song that the sisters wrote together, they revealed that they were content with their musical career, despite not reaping huge financial benefits. Maggie is fondly remembered by her two sisters, her mother, Judy Roche, as well as her partner, son and brother.

[Featured Image by Franco Nadalin/AP Images]