Thursday September 21, 2023

Rodriguez, ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ Subject Dies at 81

Rodriguez was central idea for Oscar winning documentary ‘Searching for Sugar Man’

By Web Desk
August 10, 2023
Rodriguez, ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ Subject Dies at 81
Rodriguez, ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ Subject Dies at 81

Rodriguez, singer-songwriter dies at the age of 81.

Rodriguez, a musician whose extraordinary, out-of-this-world career was examined in the 2012 Oscar-winning documentary "Searching For Sugar Man," passed away on August 9. His official website announced the news.

“It is with great sadness that we at announce that Sixto Diaz Rodriguez has passed away earlier today,” the official statement read.

“We extend our most heartfelt condolences to his daughters – Sandra, Eva and Regan – and to all his family. Rodriguez was 81 years old. May His Dear Soul Rest In Peace.”

Rodriguez Life: From labour to music star

Born Sixto Rodriguez and only known by his last name, the Detroit native played in bars while working on a Chrysler assembly line. Producers Mike Theodore and Dennis Coffey—the latter a well-known local guitarist—were drawn to him. The indie Los Angeles label Sussex Records produced Rodriguez's "Cold Fact" debut in 1970.

“We thought he was like the inner city poet, putting his poems to music,” Coffey praised Rodriguez in director Malik Bendejelloul’s award-winning feature.

Due to the failure of that album and its follow-up, "Coming From Reality," which was produced in London the following year by Steve Rowland, Rodriguez was let go by Sussex by December 1971. The singer disappeared from the music industry and, in his own words, "went back to work" as a labourer, carrying out home renovation, demolition, and restoration.

Rodriguez's dissapperance

Rodriguez had no idea that while he was hanging plasterboard, his unusual, soulful recordings had amassed a cult following in some international markets. These recordings included gritty, streetwise songs like "Sugar Man," "I Wonder," and "Climb Up On My Music," which combined Dylanesque folk-rock with socially conscious, introspective lyrics, and sophisticated production.

He became a cult star in Australia after "Cold Fact" received airplay there. He then headlined a tour of the country in 1979; two years later, on a return trip, he performed alongside Midnight Oil.

Both in the United States and in South Africa, where "Cold Fact" rose to underground fame in the early 1970s, this revival remained undetected (and was not mentioned in "Searching For Sugar Man"). Rodriguez's record was released by a South African label, and a manager there estimated that it sold 500,000 copies.

In South Africa, there had been persistent rumours for years that Rodriguez had committed suicide, either by shooting himself in the head or burning himself on fire while performing. The singer was finally found to be still alive in Detroit in 1997 by a journalist and the owner of a fan website where the artist's visage was displayed on a milk carton.

Rodriguez's 'Searching For Sugar Man' 

The movie "Searching For Sugar Man" was transformed into a Cinderella tale. It gained attention at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the audience prize, and Sony Pictures Classics decided to release it. It made a respectable $3.7 million in revenue in the United States. It won the BAFTA Award for best documentary and the Academy Award for best documentary feature the following year.