Goodbye, Maggie Roche

There used to be this bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, back in the late 1970’s called the Inn Square Men’s Bar. A funky little nothing of a place but it had a nice vibe about it, and they had live music there sometimes. I lived in nearby Somerville, and when I saw that The Roaches were going to appear on that little stage in Inman Square, in that funky bar, I couldn’t believe it. Sisters Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy Roche were amazing, a very unique musical trio—to me they were stars!

I couldn’t afford to see many name groups back then, but I was able to get in to see The Roches (there might not even have been a cover). I had a seat right in front of the stage and they were very engaging, singing with their trademark harmonies, and humor. The eldest sister, Maggie, gave their sound a unique quality because she didn’t try to sing high like a pop star girl singer—she added the low notes. Listen to “Hammond Song,” for example, written by Maggie, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s a very interesting composition, by the way, like snippets of a conversation between the sisters and a female friend or family member who is about to go off with her boyfriend; an intervention:

If you go down to Hammond you’ll never come back
In my opinion you’re on the wrong track
We’ll always love you but that’s not the point

Time moves on and I moved away, but I’ve always liked The Roches and even bought my mom one of their albums. Every Christmas I play their We Three Kings CD, a compilation of Christmas songs (including a couple of originals) that is the best Christmas album ever made, and it’s not even close.

So I was saddened to learn that Maggie Roche has passed away recently, at the age of 65. I feel as though something has been taken away from this world that should have been left where it was. That a place that I love is stating to fall away, little by little at first, but becoming less recognizable with each loss. It’s only January, and already Maggie is gone. I have a bad feeling about how the rest this year is going to go, but I take comfort in her words from “Hammond Song”:

They say we meet again on down the line
Where is on down the line, how far away?
Tell me I’m okay

Well, how do you not at least smile at that? Thanks Maggie. You were a treasure.

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