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REMEMBERING ARCHIE ROACH

Photograph by Phil Nitchie. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this story contains images and names of someone who has died.

The music world has been mourning the loss of legendary First Nations singer, songwriter Archie Roach, who died on 30 July 2022 at Warrnambool Base Hospital after a long illness. News was broken to us via a statement from Archie’s sons, Amos and Eban, who have gratefully given permission for his name and image to continue to be used “so that his legacy will continue to inspire”.

A STATEMENT BY AMOS AND EBAN ROACH ON BEHALF OF THE ROACH FAMILY
“We are heartbroken to announce the passing of Gunditjmara (Kirrae Whurrong/Djab Wurrung), Bundjalung Senior Elder, songman and storyteller Archie Roach. Archie passed, surrounded by his family and loved ones, at Warrnambool Base Hospital after a long illness. We thank all the staff who have cared for Archie over the past month.
Archie wanted all of his many fans to know how much he loves you for supporting him along the way.
We are so proud of everything our dad achieved in his remarkable life. He was a healer and unifying force. His music brought people together. A private ceremony will follow. We ask that the media please respect the family’s privacy. Archie’s sons, Amos and Eban Roach, have given permission for Archie’s name, image and music to be used, so that his legacy will continue to inspire.”

TRIBUTES
Tributes were paid to Archie’s memory by many prominent names from the arts, politics and sport including the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and musicians such as Shane Howard, Midnight Oil, Mark Seymour, Paul Kelly, Emma Donovan, Briggs, Alice Skye and so many more.

“Today we mourn the passing of Archie Roach. Our country has lost a brilliant talent, a powerful and prolific national truth teller. Archie’s music drew from a well of trauma and pain, but it flowed with a beauty and a resonance that moved us all.
We grieve for his death, we honour his life and we hold to the hope that his words, his music and his indomitable spirit will live on to guide us and inspire us.’ – Anthony Albanese, Australian Prime Minister

“Farewell to the great Archie Roach; a true gentle man, songs deep from the heart, much loved by his people – massive respect across the land’ – Midnight Oil

“Archie Roach taught me there’s a difference between being the best and being the greatest. It’s about vulnerability and what the artist lets you in on, what they share with you. I think that’s what really separates someone from being technically the best and being the greatest. Being the greatest means you transcended the genre, and what you do impacts culture. You change culture around the world. You change the discussion. We can’t thank Uncle Arch enough for what he gave us. His strength he showed us right until the end. His generosity, talent and artistry that we all benefit from. All my love and strength to Amos, Eban, Jill & the family.’ – Briggs

“Archie Roach left this mortal world tonight, on his big spirit journey, passing from culture back to nature. I and my family are deeply saddened to hear of my dear brother’s passing. We send our condolences to his beloved family. We played festivals from Mulkuddi in Mt. Isa to Tarerer in our shared home country, toured all over Australia and to England and Ireland with the Black Arm Band, recorded and co-wrote the closing song for The Secret River together. I also had the honour of producing his Journey album and touring it.
He was also my neighbour and my friend. We were both from the same town, the same age. My father played footy against Archie’s Dad.

When I first met Archie in Fitzroy in the 1980s and heard that sweet but lived-in voice for the first time, I couldn’t believe he was from the country I’d grown up in. But we never met back in childhood. He was taken away as a child.
Like so many Aboriginal people, Archie had to deal with much in his lifetime. Loss of childhood, loss of family, loss of identity, loss of his country.

He also carried a lot of people’s stories and memories. He was an unrelenting and generous champion for his people and there is a line of his that keeps returning to me: “…For lives that never stood a chance”.
He carried the collective loss of his people, which is immense, on his broad shoulders. Sometimes you felt that the weight of that burden threatened to crush him. It would crush most people. But when Archie sang, he soared like an eagle and gave voice to all of that pain, suffering, loss, joy and inevitably, redemption. His great gift was that he did it in a way that liberated us all.

When I saw him a few days ago he said ‘When I was younger, I thought my life was cursed, but this far down the track I think I was blessed.’
Let our tears fall tonight for what the whole country has lost. There is a tear in the tapestry of our national soul. Let our brother’s passing bring us together and strengthen our resolve to embrace the Uluru Statement from the Heart and bring to reality the healing and justice in this country that Archie yearned for, in his songs and his big spirit.” – Shane Howard

STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE NATIONAL ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER MUSIC OFFICE AND APRA AMCOS
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Music Office and APRA AMCOS also sent their sincerest condolences to the Roach and Hunter families and the Gunditjmara and Bundjalung people who are mourning the loss of their iconic song man and senior Elder.

“Archie Roach or Uncle Arch as so many of us lovingly refer to him, was a prolific songwriter and interpreter of song. His career spanned more than 30 years, over eight albums, and countless awards and he has contributed more songs to the Australian canon than many other writers could dream of. He carried his people and their stories with him wherever he went and we are all richer as a musical community because of the many truths he revealed about our shared history through his songs.”

“As an organisation that exists to recognise and support the songwriter and the song, we celebrate the life of a man who fought adversity throughout his life to become one of our country’s greatest songwriters and storytellers. Uncle Archie shared his story and the stories of many, simply and clearly – stories that were difficult to tell and hard to hear. Uncle Archie was already a national treasure, and his voice has never been more poignant and powerful,” said Dean Ormston, CEO, APRA AMCOS.

Archie Roach joined APRA in 1988, two years before the release of his landmark debut album Charcoal Lane. He was honoured with the prestigious Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music at the 2017 APRA Music Awards.

When presenting the Ted Albert Award, journalist Stan Grant shared what Uncle Archie told him about writing ‘Took The Children Away’. “When I first wrote that, it was my story. Then I saw it as an Aboriginal story. And, now it’s an Australian story,” Archie said.

AUSTRALIAN MUSICIAN
Australian Musician had the honour of interviewing Archie Roach, along with collaborator Craig Pilkington for the release of Archie’s 10th album, ‘Let Love Rule’ in 2016.  Here is that interview. We too offer or condolences to Archie’s extended family.

THE MUSIC LEGACY LEFT BEHIND
Apart from the historic albums Archie recorded for Mushroom and its Bloodline label such as Charcoal Lane, Jamu Dreaming and Into The Bloodstream, earlier this year Archie generously agreed to support the Australian Road Crew Association (ARCA)fund-raising activities through the ‘Desk Tape Series’ by allowing his live recordings from Key Largo in the United States in 1992, and Darwin in 1993, to be released by ARCA to assist roadies in need.

Archie Roach is the 26th act to throw his support behind Support Act’s Roadies Fund through the Australian Road Crew Association (ARCA)’s Desk Tape Series.

The Series was created by ARCA to raise funds to provide financial, health, counselling and well-being services for roadies and crew in crisis. The recordings are made off the sound desk by a crew member – in this case Mark Woods for the US show in Portland, Oregon at the Key Largo in ‘92, and Andy Rayson for the Darwin Casino in ’93 – and released on ARCA’s Black Box Records through MGM Distribution and on all major streaming services.

Archie Roach LIVE at Key Largo ’92 and Darwin ’93 features Archie roach and his partner Ruby Hunter

The Archie Roach LIVE at Key Largo ’92 and Darwin ’93 live tape and all the ARCA Desk Tape Series recordings are available through Black Box Records – ARCA (australianroadcrew.com.au) Archie Roach LIVE in Key Largo ’92 and Darwin ’93 shows the healing continues each time he plays a concert – both for himself and the audience.

“It’s a two-way thing,” the Gunditjmara / Bundjalung man said. “The audience gives me so much back – it’s hard to explain.”

“But that’s actually what I do this for … to get that interaction with the audience.”

Paul Kelly, who co-produced Archie’s first album Charcoal Lane, said, “Everything we do is political. No one bears that out better than Archie. All his songs are love songs – love songs to country and clan – and at the same time they cry out for a better world.”

VALE ARCHIE ROACH