The news cycle is so bonkers right now that the death of Maggie Roche didn’t cut above the noise for me for almost an entire month. Roche (in center of above pic, flanked by her sisters Suzzy and Terre) died recently, age 65, from cancer. Jon Parales wrote a very nice obituary in the New York Times.
This is quite a significant loss for New York, for music and for a specific type of, oh, how do I say this the right way, the 92nd St Y Lifestyle.
The Roches were never big stars, but they were fairly ubiquitous at just around the time I came to New York, which was the early 1990s. I was listening to a lot of Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight and going to the Bottom Line. That’s a radio show and club that don’t exist anymore.
What I’ve been lately getting my head around is how damn lucky I was to have my interests at that time in this city. There was an exceptional thing happening in independent film (as has been greatly discussed and analyzed) but also a very slight uptick in the commercial viability in singer-songwriter acts.
I don’t listen to this sort of thing much anymore these days, and when I do it’s the new Richard Thompson album because he also shreds and wails on the guitar. (He does.) But I don’t know if anyone is making music like Maggie, Terre and Suzzy right now. Very doubtful.
Also important: the Roches were hella funny. Their debut as a trio (at a fundraiser for Bill Bradley’s Senate campaign!!) was introduced by Chevy Chase, and they were very tied into that SNL/Paul Schaffer world. They once “guest starred” on Tiny Toons Adventures (because they were roaches!) and they played their goofy “get-to-know-us” number “We.” Suzzy Roche acted in Joan Micklin Silver’s Upper West Side cri-de-coeur “Crossing Delancey,” granting her even more honorary Jewess status. (Believe me, all three sisters had it already; Maggie and Terre Roche’s first gig was singing backup for Paul Simon.)
Anyway, Maggie was the eldest, and now she’s gone.
There are a few good live performances of the Roches floating around on YouTube, but after poking around I’ve decided to embed this studio version of probably their best known song, which was one that Maggie wrote. If that guitar style sounds familiar, that is, indeed, Robert Fripp, who produced this album.