Speaking to The Guardian, Roach revealed he was ferried to and from the venue in an ambulance with a medical team in convoy. His chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which he has lived with for years, worsened in the leadup to the ceremony, forcing him to be admitted to Warrnambool Base Hospital. Roach reportedly spent some days in intensive care.
“It wasn’t looking too good for a while,” he told the publication.
“Fluid had gone from my legs to [around] my heart, so I had to go to ICU for a while, while they tried to get me under control. After the ARIAs, things seemed to pick up after that.”
Per The Guardian, Roach was initially slated to accept the award and perform somewhere in Melbourne but this was changed to The Lighthouse Theatre in Warrnambool for its proximity to the hospital. Paul Kelly, who performed with Roach, told the publication they rehearsed with acoustic guitars in a spare room at the hospital earlier in the day.
“I remember thinking at the end of that, thinking well, yeah, that’s the performance, we can go home now! But of course, we knew then, he’s going to be great – it sounded good, he could sing it strong,” Kelly said.
“There was a little bit of uncertainty about whether it would go ahead, [but] if you’ve seen the performance from the ARIAs you notice how his voice got stronger throughout. So we were all really happy with the way it went, so was Archie, and so were the doctors.”
Roach’s broadcast performance saw him sing through a nasal cannula (a pipe used to deliver supplementary oxygen) before he returned to hospital for several more days afterward.
Roach recently won a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for his memoir Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and My Music. The book was published by Simon and Schuster Australia and details Roach’s life growing up as a child of the Stolen Generation and his journey into music.
He is currently scheduled to perform at this year’s Live At The Bowl and WOMADelaide concert series, touring his 2019 studio album ‘Tell Me Why’.