Maggie Roche, the songwriter whose serene alto anchored the close harmonies of the Roches, her trio with her sisters, Terre and Suzzy, died on Saturday. She was 65.
Suzzy Roche said in a statement that the cause was breast cancer. She did not say where her sister died.
“She was a private person, too sensitive and shy for this world, but brimming with life, love, and talent,” Suzzy Roche wrote on the Roches’ Facebook page. “She was smart, wickedly funny, and authentic — not a false bone in her body — a brilliant songwriter, with a distinct unique perspective, all heart and soul.”
Ms. Roche developed a pop-folk songwriting style that could be droll or diaristic, full of unexpected melodic turns and often inseparable from the way the sisters’ voices harmonized and diverged.
On albums from the early 1970s into the 2000s, her songs chronicled a woman’s life from early stirrings of independence (“The Hammond Song”) and amorous entanglements (“The Married Men”) to thoughts on longtime connection (“Can We Go Home Now”). They often mixed heartfelt revelations and flinty punch lines.
In “Broken Places,” recorded on a 2004 duo album with Suzzy, she sang:
I love you for all of this
Struggling towards happiness
When the chips are down we play our aces
Hiding them in our broken places.
With the Roches, and in duos with each of her sisters, she released more than a dozen albums. The Roches never had a major hit but maintained a devoted following. They shrugged off disappointments in “Big Nuthin’,” a song the three of them wrote together.
“We’d like to make a million dollars and be set for life,” Maggie Roche told The Los Angeles Times in 1995. “We’ve been lucky, though. We have a career, and that is a gift. I guess I want things to be easy, but that’s not the way it is.”
Margaret Roche was born on Oct. 26, 1951, and grew up in Park Ridge, N.J. She and her two younger sisters sang in Roman Catholic church choirs, and she started writing songs after getting a guitar for her birthday in 1964. She and Terre formed a duo, performing at first for Democratic Party fund-raisers in New Jersey.
They attended a songwriting seminar given by Paul Simon at New York University in 1970, and he had them sing harmony on his 1972 album,“There Goes Rhymin’ Simon.”
Mr. Simon signed them to a production company he had formed for young musicians, and he was also among the producers of Maggie and Terre Roche’s album “Seductive Reasoning,” released by Columbia in 1975.
Suzzy Roche joined her sisters in 1976 and, as a trio, the Roches became a local sensation at clubs in Greenwich Village. One of their onstage favorites was a snappy three-part-harmony version of the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.”
Their debut album, “The Roches,” released in 1979, was produced by Robert Fripp of the band King Crimson. It included “The Married Men,” which was also later recorded by Phoebe Snow.
Despite modest sales, the Roches persisted, making albums for Warner Bros. and, later, MCA and Rykodisc. Their songs appeared in the soundtrack to the 1988 film “Crossing Delancey” (in which Suzzy Roche appeared); in 1991, they provided the voices for a trio of animated cockroaches on an episode of the Steven Spielberg-produced cartoon series “Tiny Toon Adventures.”
The Roches released a Christmas album, “We Three Kings,” in 1990, and a children’s album, “Will You Be My Friend?,” in 1994. The trio disbanded after the release of “Can We Go Home Now?” in 1995, but Maggie and Suzzy Roche recorded albums as a duo in 2002 and 2004, and the Roches released a final trio album, “Moonswept,” in 2007.
In addition to her two sisters, Ms. Roche is survived by her partner, Michael McCarthy; her mother, Jude Roche; her brother, David, also a singer and songwriter; and her son, Ed McTeigue.