Sixto Rodriguez

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Sixto Rodriguez
Rodriguez signing autographs after a show: April 8, 2007
Background information
Birth nameSixto Diaz Rodriguez
Also known asRodriguez, Jesús Rodríguez
Born(1942-07-10) July 10, 1942 (age 71)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
GenresRock, folk, Psychedelic rock
OccupationsSinger-songwriter, guitarist, poet, excavation worker, demolition worker
Years active1967–1973, 1979–1981, 1998–present
Light in the Attic
WebsiteOfficial website
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Sixto Rodriguez
Rodriguez signing autographs after a show: April 8, 2007
Background information
Birth nameSixto Diaz Rodriguez
Also known asRodriguez, Jesús Rodríguez
Born(1942-07-10) July 10, 1942 (age 71)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
GenresRock, folk, Psychedelic rock
OccupationsSinger-songwriter, guitarist, poet, excavation worker, demolition worker
Years active1967–1973, 1979–1981, 1998–present
Light in the Attic
WebsiteOfficial website

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez (also known just as Rodríguez or as Jesús Rodríguez; born July 10, 1942) is an American folk musician based in Detroit, Michigan. His career initially proved short lived, with two little-sold albums in the early 1970s and two Australian concert tours. Unbeknownst to him, however, his work became extremely successful and influential in South Africa and at one point in time more famous than Elvis Presley to South African fans, although he was mistakenly rumored in that country to have committed suicide.

In the 1990s, determined South African fans managed to seek out and contact him, which led to an unexpected revival of his musical career. Their story is told in the 2012 Academy Award–winning documentary film, Searching for Sugar Man, which has also helped give Rodriguez a measure of fame in his native country.

On May 9, 2013, Rodriguez received an honorary doctorate, a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, from his alma mater, Wayne State University (WSU) in Detroit, Michigan.

Early life[edit]

Rodriguez was born in Detroit, Michigan. He was named Sixto (pronounced "Seex-toh")[1] because he was the sixth child in his family. Rodriguez's parents were working class. His father was an immigrant who had come to the United States from Mexico in the 1920s, and his mother was also a Mexican immigrant. His family joined the larger wave of Mexicans journeying to the midwest to work in major industries.[2] Mexicans in this area faced several periods of intense alienation and marginalization.[3][4] In most of his songs he takes a political stance on the cruelties facing the inner city poor.

Rodriguez earned a Bachelor of Philosophy from Wayne State University's Monteith College in 1981.[5]

Domestic record career[edit]

In 1967, under the name Rod Riguez, he released the single "I'll Slip Away" through the small label Impact. He did not produce anything for another three years until he was signed to Sussex Records, an offshoot of Buddah records.

After the move to Sussex, he changed his professional name to simply Rodriguez. Rodriguez recorded two albums with Sussex, Cold Fact in 1970 and Coming from Reality in 1971. But after both sold very few copies in the US, he was quickly dropped from the label, which folded in 1975. At the time of his release from the contract, Rodriguez was in the process of completing a third album, which has yet to be released.

After this happened, Rodriguez discontinued his music career and stayed in Detroit. There, he worked in several industries that revolved around manual labor, such as demolition, yet always stayed close to a state of poverty. Having remained politically active and motivated to improve the lives of the city's working-class inhabitants, Rodriguez registered and ran for city council in Detroit in 1989.[6]

It was revealed in 2013 that Rodriguez has written 30 new songs and is in discussions with Steve Rowland, the producer of his "Coming From Reality" album. "I've written about thirty new songs", Rodriguez told Rolling Stone magazine. "He told me to send him a couple of tapes, so I'm gonna do that. I certainly want to look him up, because now he's full of ideas."[7]

Belated fame abroad[edit]

Performing with his backup band at The Corner Hotel, Melbourne. April 8, 2007. From left to right: Jim Kelly, Greg Lyon, and Rodriguez

After failing to make an impact in North America, Rodriguez gave up his career as a musician. Although he was relatively unknown in his home country, by the mid-1970s, his albums were starting to gain airplay in South Africa, Botswana, Rhodesia (Modern-day Zimbabwe), New Zealand and Australia.

After imported copies of his Sussex albums ran dry, an Australian record label, Blue Goose Music, bought the Australian rights to his back catalogue in the mid-1970s. Blue Goose released his two studio albums, plus a compilation album, At His Best, featuring unreleased recordings from 1973: "Can't Get Away", "I'll Slip Away" (a re-recording of his first single), and "Street Boy".

Unbeknownst to Rodriguez, At His Best went platinum in South Africa, which at one stage was the major disc-press interest supplying his music to the rest of the world. He would often be compared to successful contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens. Additionally, some of his songs came to serve as anti-Apartheid anthems in South Africa,[8] where his work influenced many musicians who protested against the government. It has been reported that anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko was a Rodriguez fan.[9]

Rodriguez was also very successful in Australia in the 1970s and became aware of it enough to perform two concert tours across the country in 1979 and 1981.

In 1991, both his albums were released on CD in South Africa for the first time, which helped perpetuate his fame. Even in South Africa, however, few details of his life were known to his fans, and it was widely rumored and believed that Rodriguez had killed himself during a concert in the 1970s.

Despite the magnitude of his success abroad, Rodriguez's fame in South Africa had remained completely unknown to him until 1997, when his eldest daughter came across a website dedicated to him.[10] After coming into contact with the authors of the website and learning of his long-standing fame in the country, Rodriguez went on his first South African tour, playing six concerts in front of thousands of fans. A documentary about the tour, Dead Men Don't Tour: Rodriguez in South Africa 1998, was later screened on SABC TV in 2001. Later he played in Sweden before returning to South Africa in 2001 and 2005.

In 1998, his signature song, "Sugar Man", was covered by the South African rock band Just Jinger. In 2002, the song was used by DJ David Holmes to open his mix album Come Get It I Got It, gaining Rodriguez international airplay again. "Sugar Man" had previously been sampled in the song "You're Da Man" from rapper Nas's 2001 album Stillmatic.[11]

In April 2007 and 2010, he returned to Australia to play at the East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival,[12] as well as shows in Melbourne and Sydney. His song "Sugar Man" was featured in the 2006 film Candy, starring Heath Ledger. Cornish singer-songwriter Ruarri Joseph covered Rodriguez's song "Rich Folks Hoax" for his third studio album. Rodríguez continues to tour in various countries.

Rodriguez's albums Cold Fact and Coming from Reality were re-released by Light in the Attic Records in 2009.[13]

Belated success in the United States[edit]

Sixto Rodriguez at Bimbo's 365 Club September 29, 2012.
Sixto Rodriguez at Bimbo's 365 Club September 29, 2012.

Since the cinematic release of Searching for Sugar Man in 2012, Rodríguez has experienced a flush of media exposure and fan interest in the United States, as well as Europe. Rodriguez appeared as a musical guest on the Late Show with David Letterman on August 14, 2012, performing "Crucify Your Mind", and performed "Can't Get Away" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on January 11, 2013.

Prominent news coverage has included a mid-August 2012 CNN feature story with an interview of Rodriguez discussing his life and career resurgence. On October 7, 2012, Rodriguez was featured on the highly rated US television news program 60 Minutes.[14] On November 18, 2012, Rodriguez was interviewed on the UK Sunday morning news program The Andrew Marr Show, where he also played a short song over the closing credits. He performed on the BBC2 program Later... with Jools Holland[15] on November 16, 2012, and was interviewed by Holland. Additionally, he has performed on the web on such notable web series as The Weekly Comet.

The film alleges that Rodriguez may have been cheated out of royalties over the years, specifically by Clarence Avant. This matter is still under investigation, and the legal issues are complicated.[16] Rodriguez himself at first expressed indifference to these "symbols of success" but has since decided to pursue the matter.[17]

On September 3, 2012, a petition was launched to have Rodriguez awarded a Kennedy Center Honor.

In addition to concerts in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand,[18] Rodriguez's tour schedule for 2013 includes his most notable US concerts to date, such as a stint at the Beacon Theatre in New York City in April and a spot at this year's Sasquatch Music Festival at The Gorge Ampitheatre, as well as other concerts in Europe. He played on the Park Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, England, in June 2013. On July 5, 2013, Rodriguez opened the prestigious Montreux Jazz festival. On August 10, 2013, Rodriguez headlined at the Wilderness Festival in the UK.

Searching for Sugar Man[edit]

Poster for the documentary Searching for Sugar Man

In 2012, the Sundance Film Festival hosted the premiere of the documentary film Searching for Sugar Man, from Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul, detailing the efforts of two South African fans to see if his rumored death was true—and if not, to discover what had become of him. The Simon Chinn– and John Battsek–produced documentary went on to win the World Cinema Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award, World Cinema Documentary.[19]

In addition to playing at other films festivals including the True/False Film Festival and the Traverse City Film Festival, the film opened in New York and Los Angeles on July 27, 2012, before a larger domestic cinematic run.[20] It was also screened as part of cinema programs in some European music festivals during the summer of 2012, including the Way Out West festival in August, where Rodriguez also performed. In November it won both the Audience Award and the Best Music Documentary Award at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.[21]

The Searching for Sugar Man soundtrack features a compilation of Rodriguez tracks from his albums Cold Fact and Coming from Reality, in addition to a previously unreleased single from his third album. The album was released on July 24, 2012.[22] To allay possible concerns raised in the film about how Rodriguez was apparently cheated by his previous record label, the back cover bears the statement, "Rodriguez receives royalties from the sale of this release."[23]

Searching for Sugar Man won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary on February 10, 2013.

On January 13, 2013, Searching for Sugar Man was nominated for and, on February 24, 2013, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards.[24] Rodriguez declined to attend the award ceremony as he did not want to overshadow the filmmakers' achievement.[25] Upon accepting his award, Chinn remarked on such generosity, "That just about says everything about that man and his story that you want to know."[26] Malik Bendjelloul also said on stage, "Thanks to one of the greatest singers ever, Rodriguez."[27]



Studio albums
Live albums


Comeback discography[edit]


YearAlbumPeak positionsCertificationNotes

2012Searching for Sugar Man76172822832229122SWE: GoldSoundtrack of documentary film
Cold Fact783050481542010Re-release of 1970 album
Coming from Reality161109121359116Re-release of 1971 album


  1. ^ "Rodriguez". 1942-07-10. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  2. ^ Vargas, Zaragosa. Proletarians of the North: A History of Mexican Industrial Workers in Detroit, 1917-1933. University of California Press, 1999.
  3. ^ Vargas, Zaragosa.
  4. ^ Balderrama, Francisco. A Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s. Albuquerque, NM.: University of New Mexico Press, 2006.
  5. ^ "Wayne State University". Retrieved 2012-09-015. 
  6. ^ Searching for Sugar Man
  7. ^ Michaels, Sean (January 30, 2013). "Rodriguez set to return to studio after 42-year absence". The Guardian. Retrieved January 30, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Rodriguez: Forgotten in America, Exalted in Africa". NPR. July 28, 2012. 
  9. ^ A conversation with Searching For Sugar Man director, Malik Bendjelloul, The Independent, December 21, 2012
  10. ^ Petridis, Alexis (October 7, 2005). "The singer who came back from the dead". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  11. ^ Brian Currin. "Rodríguez – The Music: "...You're Da Man, Sugar Man..."". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  12. ^ Members Home Book Tickets FAQ's Help. "East Coast Blues and Roots Festival (Also known as Byron Bay Bluesfest Archive)". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  13. ^ Stevenson, Mark (March 12, 2009). "Rodríguez 'Coming From Reality' gets new lease of life". Retrieved March 17, 2009. 
  14. ^ Rodríguez: The Rock Icon Who Didn't Know It, reported by Bob Simon, segment produced by Michael Gavshon, CBS News, October 7, 2012.
  15. ^ Holland, Jools. "Rodriguez chats to Jools Holland". BBC. 
  16. ^ Sixto Rodriguez pursues review of contracts, sales in search of royalties
  17. ^ Rodriguez Seeks Lost Royalties From Albums Sold Overseas While He Lived In Obscurity
  18. ^ – Sugar Man Rodriquez <sic> to play Wellington
  19. ^ Yuan, Jada. "Sundance: The Electrifying Search For Sugar Man". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  20. ^ "Searching for Sugar Man || A Sony Pictures Classics Release". Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Winners of the IDFA 2012 Awards announced". Amsterdam, Netherlands: International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Archived from the original on January 26, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2013. 
  22. ^ "SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Brings Rodriguez's 1970s Music to a New Generation". Legacy Recordings. May 4, 2012. Archived from the original on January 26, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Rodriguez – 'Searching For Sugar Man (The Soundtrack)' (Audio CD)". 
  24. ^ McCollum, Brian (January 10, 2013). "Sixto Rodriguez rides the wave of 'Searching for Sugar Man' success". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved January 23, 2013. 
  25. ^ Andy Greene. "Rodriguez: 10 Thing You Don't Know About the 'Searching for Sugar Man' Star". Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  26. ^ Reuters, Sapa-AFP. "Sugar Man takes Oscar". DailyNews. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  27. ^ Germain, David (February 25, 2013). "Oscars 2013: 'Argo' Takes Home Best Picture at 85th Academy Awards". Moviefone. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  28. ^ a b c "Billboard 200 Charts > Rodriguez". Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Belgian Charts (Flanders) > Rodriguez". Hung Medien. Retrieved September 13, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Danish Charts > Rodriguez". Hung Medien. Retrieved March 2, 2010. 
  31. ^ "French Charts > Rodriguez" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved February 2, 2011. 
  32. ^ "Dutch Album Charts > Rodriguez" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved August 31, 2011. 
  33. ^ "Norwegian Charts > Rodriguez". Hung Medien. Retrieved March 10, 2013. 

External links[edit]