Rodriguez, the musician responsible for such indelible songs as ‘Searching for Sugar Man’, ‘I Wonder’ and ‘Crucify Your Mind’, has died at the age of 81. A post on Rodriguez’s social media accounts confirmed the news. He is survived by his daughters, Sandra, Eva and Regan.
Rodriguez was born Sixto Rodriguez in Detroit, Michigan, in 1942. He remained a resident of the city throughout his life, and when his music career failed to catch fire, he returned to manual labour. He long harboured ambitions of a career in politics, running various unsuccessful campaigns for the Detroit mayoralty and the Michigan House of Representatives.
Rodriguez – ‘Crucify Your Mind’
Rodriguez released just two studio albums, 1970’s Cold Fact and 1971’s Coming From Reality. Neither album resonated with listeners in his home country, but in Australia, it was a different story. Demand for the two albums was sufficient to encourage local label Blue Goose Music to acquire the rights to Rodriguez’s recordings in Australia and issue the Australia-only compilation, At His Best, in 1977.
He toured Australia for the first time in 1979 and recordings from the tour comprise the live album, Alive, released by Blue Goose in 1981. He continued to tour in later life, including trips in 2013, 2014 and 2016. A planned 2019 Australian tour with Sarah Blasko was scrapped at the last minute.
Rodriguez’s success in South Africa was even more potent, especially given the sociopolitical context. As depicted in the 2012 documentary film, Searching For Sugar Man, Rodriguez became a huge star in South Africa during apartheid – only, he knew nothing about it.
It wasn’t until 1997, when his daughter, Eva, discovered a South African website dedicated to her father, that Rodriguez learned of his enormous cultural significance in South Africa. He toured South Africa for the first time in 1998.
US label Light in the Attic reissued Cold Fact and Coming From Reality in 2009, which led to Rodriguez’s first American live shows in decades. The release of Searching For Sugar Man brought about another major boost in popularity and the film won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 2013 Academy Awards.