Eleven Archie Roach Musical Moments We Will Never Forget

31 July 2022 | 1:17 am | Stephen Green

Eleven moments that defined one of Australian music's most important careers.

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The passing of Archie Roach this weekend closes a chapter in Australian music the likes we have not seen before and will never again, but Archie Roach's legacy lives on. His remarkable way of communicating his story lives on in his music for generations to discover and rediscover. Here are eleven Archie Roach moments that define a remarkable life. 

1. Took The Children Away (Charcoal Lane)

The song that started it all, 'Took The Children Away' was the very first song Roach wrote, telling his story in a way that resonated with audiences across the country, helping to put the Stolen Generation firmly on the national agenda. Discovered by Paul Kelly after he heard this song, it was not just his first, but a song that would come to define his career, coming back in various guises throughout his four-decade music career. Recorded for the now-classic Charcoal Lane album in 1990, this song went on to grab his first ARIA nomination and helped the album go on to sell gold. 

2. Down City Streets (Charcoal Lane)

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The second single from Charcoal Lane took Roach's story further, telling the story of his time living on the streets of Melbourne. Importantly, 'Down City Streets' was written by Roach's wife Ruby Hunter, a brilliant artist in her own right and a key piece of the Archie Roach story which would continue to unfold across his career. 

3. From Paradise (Jamu Dreaming)

Roach's second album Jamu Dreaming arrived in 1993 and its single 'From Paradise' is an amazingly accomplished track. With a slightly more stylised production than Charcoal Lane, the album and its lead single showed a big progression in Archie's musicality and songmanship.

4. A Child Was Born Here (Looking For Butterboy)

Fan favourite from Archie's 1997 album Looking For Butterboy, 'A Child Was Born Here' is another simple but effective track which gently disarms before delivering its powerful message. The song was included on the CD single of 'Hold On Tight' which went on to win Best Indigenous Release at the ARIA Awards. The song went on to be re-recorded with Ruby Hunter, Paul Grabowski and the Australian Art Orchestra in 2005.

5. Louis St John (Looking For Butterboy)

On what is one of the most poigniant moments on the album, Archie and Ruby join together, singing in tandem in one of the best collaborations between the two. Their voices complement each other creating an almost perfect manifestation of their meaningful life partnership. 

6. Alien Invasion (Sensual Being)

Roach's fourth album Sensual Being saw Paul Kelly and Boom Crash Opera's Richard Pleasance behind the producer's desk, with the record quite a stylistic departure for Roach. For those looking for 'activist' Roach may have been surprised, but 'Alien Invasion' proved that Roach was a multi-faceted artist as he dabbled in blues-tinged pop. 

7. Song To Sing (Into The Bloodstream)

Toying with gospel for his sixth studio album Into The Bloodstream, Archie dropped 'Song To Sing' as the album's lead single. With a mournful verse which leaps into a joyous evangelical-style gospel church sing-a-long, this is another unique entry into the Roach canon. The video also features longtime friend and collaborator Uncle Jack Charles. The album was Archie's first after the passing of Ruby. 

8. Get Back To The Land (Let Love Rule)

With a creative process of over eighteen months, Let Love Rule is one of Roach's most powerful and soulful entries in his catalogue. 

9. Rally Around The Drum

Recorded in 2019 on the companion album to Archie's autobiography Tell Me Why, 'Rally Around The Drum' is another collaboration with Paul Kelly, becoming one of his final singles. 

10. Took The Children Away (2020 ARIA Awards)

Archie took to the ARIA Awards stage in 2020, recreating his masterpiece 'Took The Children Away' and in doing so, introducing the song to yet another generation touched by its poigniancy. Joined on vocals Paul Kelly, Linda Bull and Jessica Hitchcock this is yet another amazing performance which signified Archies induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Also winning two awards on the night, Archie's place in Australian music history was cemented. 

11. Redemption Song / One Love / Get Up Stand Up (triple j Like A Version)

Just three weeks ago, Archie Roach went on youth radio station Triple J to create a three-song Bob Marley medley to celebrate NAIDOC week. With the help of Becca Hatch, MARLON & RULLA, it will stand as one of Roach's final performances. Not just a final sendoff for a legend, but a reminder of Archie's ability to attract love and respect from old and young. His spirit will live on through every Australian artist currently creating art and telling their stories.