Australia’s Premier Music Industry Mourns Loss of Archie Roach – Billboard
Archie Roach, the legendary Australian Indigenous artist whose song ‘Took the Children Away’ won a Human Rights Medal, died on Saturday July 30 after a long illness. He was 66 years old.
The Gunditjmara (Kirrae Whurrong/Djab Wurrung), Bundjalung elder, singer, prolific storyteller and First Nations champion was surrounded by his family and loved ones at Warrnambool Base Hospital, according to a message from the Mushroom Group.
“We are so proud of all that our father has accomplished in his remarkable life,” read a statement from the late artist’s sons, Amos and Eban Roach. “He was a healer and a unifying force. His music brings people together.
In a career spanning more than 30 years and eight albums, Roach, or Uncle Arch as he was affectionately known, “contributed more songs to the Australian canon than many other songwriters could dream of”, reads- on in a statement on behalf of National Aboriginal and Torres. Strait Islanders Music Office and APRA AMCOS.
“He took 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.”
These truths crystallized in “Took The Children Away,” a heartbreaking story about the forced separation of First Nations children from their families.
It was a song written from a personal experience.
Roach’s life and career have been celebrated on many occasions. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) (in 2015) and received the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Service to Australian Music (in 2017).
While presenting the Ted Albert Award, broadcaster Stan Grant shared what Roach told him about making “Took The Children Away.” “When I first wrote this, it was my story. Then I saw it as an Aboriginal story. And, now, it’s an Australian story,” Roach said.
At the 2015 APRA Screen Music Awards, Roach and co-writer Shane Howard won Best Original Song Composed for the Screen for “A Secret River” by The secret river.
The composer was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2020, marking the 30th anniversary of the release of Charcoal Alleyhis first full album which carried “Took The Children Away”.
The album received two ARIA Awards in 1991 and “Took The Children Away” received a international Human Rights Achievement Award, the first time this honor has been awarded to a songwriter.
The song is now stored in the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
In total, Roach has won nine ARIA awards, including Best Male Artist of 2020.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to Roach.
“Our country has lost a brilliant talent, a powerful and prolific national truth-teller,” he said in a social media post. “Archie’s music tapped into a well of trauma and pain, but flowed with a beauty and resonance that moved us all.”
He continues, “We mourn his death, we honor his life, and we remain hopeful that his words, his music, and his indomitable spirit will live on to guide and inspire us.”
“We are all deeply saddened to hear this news. Archie RoachThe powerful and unifying storytelling of has had an immeasurable impact not only on the Australian music community, but also on music lovers around the world,” comments Annabelle Herd, CEO of ARIA and PPCA.
“His resounding talent and tireless dedication left a legacy that will continue to inspire many generations to come. Our thoughts are with his family and all the countless lives he had for the best as we celebrate his extraordinary life.
Uncle Archie, says Dean Ormston, CEO of APRA AMCOS, was “already a national treasure, and his voice has never been so poignant and powerful”.