Archie Roach

Archie Roach

Archie Roach (born 1956, Mooroopna, Victoria) is an Australian musician. A singer, songwriter and guitarist, he survived a turbulent upbringing to develop into a powerful voice for indigenous Australians, a storyteller in the tradition of his ancestors, and a nationally popular and respected artist.


In his own words, "I was born in Mooroopna, way there by the river bend... ". Mooroopna is named after an Aboriginal word referring to a bend in the Goulburn River, near Shepparton in central Victoria.

In 1956, Archie Roach's family, along with the rest of the area's indigenous population, were re-housed on Rumbularah mission. Roach and his family subsequently moved to Framlingham, where his mother was born [ Roach, A. (2002) lyrics to "Move It On" on Sensual Being] .

While still a very young child, Roach and his sisters, along with many other young people of the 'stolen generation,' were forcibly removed from their family by Australian government agencies, and placed in an orphanage. After enduring two unpleasant placements in foster care Roach was eventually fostered by the Coxes, a family of Scottish immigrants in Melbourne. The Coxes' eldest daughter, Mary, played keyboards and guitar in a local pentecostal church, and taught Roach the basics of both instruments. He was further inspired by his foster father's record collection, which included old Scottish ballads and songs by Billie Holiday, the Ink Spots, the Drifters and Nat King Cole.

As a young man, Roach received a letter from an older sister, describing to him the events of their childhood. Angry and hurt, he left his foster home carrying only a guitar. Penniless, he travelled to Sydney and Adelaide, and spent time living on the streets, trying to make sense of his upbringing and find his natural family. He went through periods of alcoholism and despair, but also began to produce music. During this time Roach met his lifelong partner, and musical soulmate, Ruby Hunter. They started a family. Later in their marriage, their home became an open house for teenage Aborigines living on the streets.

In the late 1980s Hunter and Roach formed a band, the Altogethers, with several other indigenous Australians, and moved to Melbourne. There he was overheard by a bandmate of songwriter Paul Kelly, who persuaded Kelly to give Roach an opening slot for some of his concerts.

In 1990, with the encouragement of Kelly, Roach recorded his debut solo album, "Charcoal Lane". This album included the song "Took the Children Away", a moving indictment of the treatment of indigenous children of Roach's generation, and a song which stuck a chord not only among the wider Aboriginal community, but also nationally. The song was awarded two ARIA Awards, as well as an international Human Rights Achievement Award, the first time this had been awarded to a songwriter because of a song. The album it came from featured in Rolling Stone magazine's Top 100 Albums for 1992.

Roach has recorded three further albums, and toured around the globe, headlining and opening shows for Joan Armatrading, Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega and Patti Smith. He has worked on soundtracks for several films, including Rolf de Heer's "The Tracker".

Roach and Hunter currently live on a homestead near Berri, South Australia with their children. Their home has become something of a refuge for troubled Aboriginal youngsters, now dealing with some of the problems the couple themselves faced.Fact|date=August 2008



*"Charcoal Lane" (1992) [Hightone] :"Native Born":"Charcoal Lane":"Muntana" (based on the life of Russell Moore, a fostered Aborigine reprieved from death row for the 1988 murder of Barbara Ann Barber in Florida and now serving a 25-year sentence).:"I've Lied":"Down City Streets":"Took The Children Away":"Sister Brother":"Beautiful Child":"No No No":"Summer Of My Life"

*"Jamu Dreaming" (1993) [Hightone] :"Weeping In The Forest":"From Paradise":"Mr T":"Love In The Morning":"Tell Me Why":"Walking Into Doors":"Wild Blue Gums":"So Young":"Angela":"Jamu Dreaming":"There Is a Garden"

*"Looking For Butterboy" (1997) [Hightone] :"Beggar Man":"A Child Was Born Here":"My Grandmother":"Dancing (With My Spirit)":"F Troop":"Mother's Heartbeat":"Djabugai Lady":"Hold On Tight":"River Song":"Reach For You":"Give Unto Caesar":"Lois St John":"Watching Over Me"

*"Sensual Being" (2002) [Festival Mushroom Records] :"Alien Invasion":"Life Is Worth Living":"Just a Little Time":"Will I See You Tonight":"Mission Ration Blues":"Outside Your Window":"Many Waters Rise":"Cold Wind Blows":"Free To Be a Man":"Morning Star":"Move It On":"Small Child"

*"Journey" (2007)

External links

* [ "Archie's road" 2002 article]
* [ Archie Roach entry on]
* [ Festival Mushroom Artist Information]


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