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Noted for their lush harmonies, quirky songs, and impressive stylistic range, the three Roche sisters -- Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy -- were among contemporary folk music's most endearing artists. The Roches began singing together while growing up in New York during the late '50s and early '60s, taking to the streets of the city each holiday season to regale passersby with Christmas carols. At the end of the decade both Maggie (the oldest) and Terre (the middle daughter) quit school to begin touring professionally as a duo. In 1970 they met Paul Simon, who tapped them to sing backup on his There Goes Rhymin' Simon album. He also helped get them a contract with Columbia; their debut LP, Seductive Reasoning, followed in 1975, but went largely unnoticed. For a time, the Roches considered quitting the music business, even leaving New York to retreat to Louisiana; eventually they returned north, at which time Suzzy left college to join the group full-time.
Restored to a trio, the Roches became a staple of the Greenwich Village folk circuit and a favorite of local critics. In 1979, they signed to Warner Bros. to issue a self-titled LP produced by Robert Fripp, earning acclaim for their exquisite harmonies (equal parts Terre's ethereal upper register, Maggie's near-baritone low notes, and Suzzy's midrange acrobatics). While the track "The Married Men" later scored a successful cover by Phoebe Snow, The Roches itself was not a hit. For 1980's Nurds, they changed direction, augmenting their basic folk sound with a rock rhythm section comprised of former Television bassist Fred Smith and Patti Smith Group drummer Jay Dee Daugherty. Fripp returned to produce 1982's Keep on Doing, a largely acoustic effort featuring cameos from members of his band King Crimson. When neither it nor its follow-up, 1985's Another World, was a commercial success, the trio left Warner to return to touring.
The Roches finally resurfaced on record in 1989, issuing Speak on MCA to the usual press acclaim and negligible sales. Their next effort, 1990's We Three Kings, was a Christmas album fondly recalling the sisters' roots. After 1992's A Dove, the trio left MCA to record a children's album, Will You Be My Friend?, issued on the tiny Baby Boom label in 1994. Continuing to cater to the younger set, that same year they recorded the soundtrack to the animated feature The Land Before Time II. For 1995's Can We Go Home Now, they signed to Rykodisc; another Roche sibling -- brother David -- was on hand to lend backing vocals. In early 1997, the Roches announced they were, at least temporarily, going their separate ways. While Maggie remained quiet, Terre soon formed a new group, Terre Roche & Her Moodswings, and later that same year Suzzy issued her first solo LP, Holy Smokes. In 2003 Rhino/Warner Bros released the Collected Works of the Roches compilation, prompting the trio to re-form after an 11-year hiatus for 2007's excellent Moonswept.
The Roches (Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy Roche) are a vocal group of three songwriting Irish-American sisters from Park Ridge, New Jersey, known for their "unusual" and "rich" harmonies, quirky lyrics, and casually comedic stage performances.
The Roches have been active as performers and recording artists since the mid-1970s, at various times performing as a trio and in pairs.
In the late 1960s, eldest sister Margaret and middle sister Terre (pronounced "Terry") quit school to tour as a duo. Maggie wrote most of the songs, with Terre contributing to a few. The sisters got a break when Paul Simon brought them in as backup singers on his 1973 #2 album There Goes Rhymin' Simon. They got his assistance (along with an appearance by The Oak Ridge Boys) on their only album as a duo, Seductive Reasoning (1975). Shortly after that, youngest sister Suzzy (rhymes with "fuzzy") joined the group to form The Roches trio.
Around this time, they parlayed bartending jobs at famous Greenwich Village folk venue Gerde's Folk City into stage appearances, an experience they commemorated in their song, "Face Down at Folk City" (from Another World, 1985). It was here that they met many of their future singing and songwriting collaborators. Terre was now writing songs as well, and by the time of their first album as a trio, The Roches (1979), Suzzy had also begun writing. Robert Fripp produced the album. Maggie's "The Married Men" from this album was eventually to become the biggest hit of the songwriting trio — not for them, but for Phoebe Snow. After Snow and Linda Ronstadt performed the song in a duet on Saturday Night Live, the Roches were invited themselves to perform on the show a few months later in 1979 at the behest of Paul Simon. They did two songs, both unreleased at the time, "Bobby's Song" and "The Hallelujah Chorus".
Throughout the 1980s, The Roches continued to release their music to small audiences, little or no air play, and only modest record sales. Their widest exposure in the '80s was an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in November 1985, where they performed their song "Mr. Sellack". In 1990, they returned to their Christmas-caroling roots with the release of the 24-track We Three Kings, which included the a cappella "Star of Wonder", written by Terre. After another pop album (A Dove, 1992), they recorded an entire album of children's songs entitled Will You Be My Friend?, featuring a song by brother David and various young backup singers, including Suzzy's daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche.
After a tour interrupted by the death of their father, The Roches released Can We Go Home Now (1995), the last original recording they released as a trio until 2007.
In 1997, the sisters formally put their group on long-term hold. They continued to work on solo projects and often collaborated on albums and performances. Terre teaches guitar workshops and has released a solo album. Suzzy, who has acted on the stage and in several movies, released two of her own albums and two with Maggie, with whom she has toured. All three sisters can be found periodically participating in New York-area events. At the end of 2005, the three Roches (with brother Dave) reunited for a short but highly successful holiday tour. Several more appearances in the U.S. and Canada took place in 2006-7, and in March 2007, after a 12-year hiatus, The Roches released a new studio album, Moonswept. Following the tour for "Moonswept", the Roches announced that they would no longer be touring, although they have made isolated appearances individually and as a group, mostly in and around New York City.
Maggie has an "unusual" contralto voice--"almost a contralto." Terre provides a soprano that brackets the upper range of the sisters, while Suzzy fills in the middle range. While touring, the sisters accompany themselves with guitars and keyboards, frequently without additional musicians.
Brother David is also a singer-songwriter with his own solo album, and has often backed up the trio on their recordings. Maggie's son, Felix McTeigue, has recorded three albums (one with his group Filo). Suzzy's daughter, Lucy, has also contributed vocals on the Roches' and McTeigue's albums, and in 2007 she produced an EP of her own, 8 Songs, followed by 8 More in 2008 and tours opening for acts such as Amos Lee and the Indigo Girls.
The majority of Roches songs are written by the three sisters, whether individually, in every combination, or collaborating with other songwriters. They have also recorded their own arrangements of songs by a variety of New York folk artists, as well as a few covers of famous songs. Their three-part arrangement of the four-part "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah, featured on Keep on Doing (1982), is well regarded in a cappella circles.