Archie Roach is a man of few words. But when he speaks, or sings, those words lift you up, transport you and humble you. He is that rarest of beings … one that sees beyond race, religion, gender and ideology … to get straight to the heart of what it means to be human. What he sees at the heart of humanity is love. And love, in all its glorious, unruly incarnations is the basis for his latest album, the soulful “Let Love Rule”.
It’s been four years since the release of “Into The Bloodstream”, the album that marked his return to recording in the wake unimaginable setbacks including a stroke, lung cancer and the loss of Ruby Hunter, his partner in life and music.
Those close to him saw the healing effect of that record – on Archie and his audiences. For Archie himself, it was a chance to begin to live again. “It’s a two-way thing. The audience gives me so much back – it’s hard to explain. But that’s actually what I do this for … to get that interaction with the audience.”
Unlike his early albums, “Let Love Rule” was written around a definite concept. “On this album I wanted to explore the theme of love – what it is, what it means,” said Archie. “I wanted to write about love, or a willingness to love all people.” He was concerned by what he saw happening in the world and particularly in Australia. “We are closing ourselves off and not letting people in. And not just in the sense of not letting them into the country, but not letting them into our hearts, into our minds. This country was built on people coming here from other countries. That’s what made Australia what it is today.”
These are big words from a man who personally experienced the suffering of being forcibly removed from his family aged only 3 under the Australian Government’s assimilation policy, the legacy of this brutal policy is now referred to as the Stolen Generations.
In his book, Talking to My Country, veteran award winning journalist, Stan Grant said Archie’s songs captured the experience of all indigenous people. “Australian’s were opening their minds and hearts to people like Archie. How could anyone not? A gentle soul singing with no bitterness, this wasn’t about politics, it was about people.” There’s no doubt that Archie was one of a handful of performers in the 90s who brought the issues of aboriginal people into mainstream conversation.
Twenty-five years later, Archie is still telling the stories of his people … all people. “Many of the songs on the album are really a call for understanding,” explained Archie. “To find the things common to us all, that shared humanity, rather than just looking at the things that divide us.” “It’s a call for understanding and it’s not necessarily a message for this generation,” explained Archie. “It’s for the younger generation … for our children, our grandchildren, so things don’t continue the way they are.”
Some of his health constraints (losing part of a lung to cancer) influenced his vocal style as well. “You just use what you have now as best you can,” smiled Archie. “I did play around a bit with some of the songs, but that’s what gives it its flavour.”
“Let Love Rule” is the tenth album in an extraordinary career. “I’ve grown through the years,” said Archie. “As you get older, you tend to look at things more on a universal level. You realise everybody suffers. Everybody goes through hard times. Your understanding grows.” That understanding has produced one of his most uplifting albums. “Ultimately, this album is about what I wish for. I’m not necessarily trying to get others to believe that as well. I’m just saying – this is me … this is what I hope.”