Women’s History Month: Spotlight on The Roches

Vocal trio Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy Roche were born in Park Ridge, New Jersey, in the 1950s. Maggie and Terre started playing guitar together when Maggie was 13 and Terre was 12, and Maggie started writing songs as soon as she learned to play. Since the sisters didn’t have many opportunities to play in Park Ridge, they went into New York City during the Christmas season and entertained passersby with their singing of Christmas carols. Their father also took them to Greenwich Village to audition for Izzy Young’s folk music show at WBAI. Dave Van Ronk heard them that day and introduced them to his wife and manager Terri Thal, who set them up at the Bitter End and helped them get an audition for the college coffee house circuit. Maggie and Terre left school to tour college campuses in the late 1960s. When they returned, the duo contributed backup vocals to Paul Simon’s 1973 album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, and Simon, whom they had met in 1970 when he invited them into his songwriting course at NYU, produced Maggie and Terre’s 1975 album Seductive Reasoning.

In 1977, Suzzy joined Maggie and Terre, forming the Roches trio. Maggie’s contralto, Terre’s soprano, and Suzzy’s middle range produced crystalline harmonies, and the sisters delivered singular tongue-in-cheek songs about eccentric characters and the quirky nature of relationships. In 1979, Robert Fripp of King Crimson produced the Roche’s first album, The Roches, which featured songs such as the trio’s “theme” song, “We,” along with favorites “The Married Men,” “Mr. Sellack,” and “The Train.”

The trio released Nurds, a more rock-oriented album, in 1980, and returned to acoustic folk sound on 1982’s Keep on Doing, also produced by Fripp. The Roches released three more albums on the ‘80s—Another World (1985); No Trespassing (1986), and Speak (1989). While the Roches albums didn’t sell robustly, the trio developed a dedicated following during their touring, to which they devoted more and more of their time in the 1990s.

In 1990, they returned to their days of caroling in NYC with their Christmas album, We Three Kings, featuring Terre’s a cappella original “Star of Wonder.” Their brother David joined the Roches on A Dove, which appeared in 1992, and on the album of children’s songs Will You Be My Friend? (1994), on which Suzzy’s daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche also appears.

Following their father’s death, they released Can We Go Home Now? (1995) The trio put their work on hold in 1997, though they worked on solo projects—Suzzy Roche, Holy Smokes (1997); Terre Roche, The Sound of a Tree Falling (1998)—and Suzzy and Maggie released two albums as a duo: Zero Church (2002); Why the Long Face (2004). The Roches released their final studio album, Moonswept, in 2007, and in that same year they announced that they would no longer be touring.

Maggie Roche died from breast cancer in 2017. In October 2022, Terre Roche released Kin Ya See That Sun, a 15-track album that collects previously unreleased live recordings from their tours on the college circuit. Suzzy and Terre continue to perform: Terre has led a “Sunset Singing Circle” in Battery Park in New York City since 2016, and Suzzy frequently tours with her daughter Lucy.

With their ethereal harmonies and ingenious and humorous songs, the Roches captured the jagged vulnerabilities at the heart of human nature. Below are some of the highlights from their recording career.



“The Married Men”

“The Hallelujah Chorus”

“Face Down at Folk City”

“Big Nuthin'”

“Expecting Your Love”

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