Arrernte/Gurindji singer-songwriter Dan Sultan has covered the late Archie Roach‘s monumental song ‘Took the Children Away’ as the latest entry in Mushroom Group‘s ongoing Mushroom 50 project. His rendition opens with sweeping strings then pulls it back for the verses; Sultan’s powerful vocals foregrounded with piano and drums.
“‘Took The Children Away’ is, to me, the perfect song,” Sultan said. “ Wonderful melodies with strong and powerful chord progressions, and the lyrics are perfect storytelling. And above all else, it means so much. Whether a song really means something is, in my opinion, what makes it great or not and this work is what I see as the pinnacle of Artistic Endeavour. I love this song for all those reasons and I’m honoured to know it and to perform it.”
Dan Sultan – ‘Took the Children Away’
‘Took the Children Away’ was originally released via Mushroom in 1990 as Roach’s debut single, having appeared on his landmark debut album Charcoal Lane earlier that year. The song, which channels the Gunditjmara and Bundjalung songwriter’s own experience of being forcibly removed from his family as a member of the Stolen Generations, went on to be his signature track. In 1991, it earned Roach the Human Rights Achievement Award, marking the first time a songwriter had been bestowed the award.
Charcoal Lane was nominated for three awards at the 1991 ARIAs, winning two: Best New Talent and Best Indigenous Release. Roach re-recorded ‘Took the Children Away’ and other songs from the record for his final album, 2020’s The Songs of Charcoal Lane. Roach died in July last year, aged 66. A state memorial took place for Roach in December.
Sultan’s new, self-titled album is set to arrive in August. It will be his first conventional album since 2017’s Killer, and has been previewed with three singles: ‘Story,’ ‘Won’t Give You That’ and ‘Wait in Love’.
Mushroom Records’ Mushroom 50 project comes in celebration of the Australian label’s 50th anniversary, and sees artists reinterpret others’ tracks from across its back catalogue. So far, covers have included Gordi‘s rendition of Violent Soho’s ‘Covered in Chrome’, Paul Kelly performing The Sunnyboys‘ ‘Alone with You’, Missy Higgins‘ take on The Triffids classic ‘Wide Open Road’ and The Temper Trap sharing their version of The Church‘s ‘Under the Milky Way’.
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