Sixto Rodriguez

I had never even heard of Sixto Rodriguez, the subject matter of the documentary Searching for Sugar Man, let alone had interest in his music. Born in Detroit in 1942, the man who would become known simply as Rodriguez was a singer/songwriter some compared to Bob Dylan, not as mellow but with the same lyrical talents and a wicked handle on the guitar. Rodriguez never found fame in the United States. Two albums released through Sussex Records in the early ’70s hit brick walls with critics and audiences, and his name quickly plunged into obscurity. He never found his musician’s footing here, but you know who really loves Rodriguez? South Africa. That is the core of Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary, how one society’s rock and roll prince can be another society’s street sweeper. Rodriguez took local handyman jobs in Detroit while his albums blew up in Cape Town, one of many artists and philosophical politicos who sparked something in that culture that would eventually bubble up into the end of Apartheid. Rodriguez didn’t know he was a man of change to those people. Likewise, the people of South Africa had no idea who Rodriguez was, how successful – or not given the matter at hand – he was outside of their country, or even if the man was still alive.

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