Several weeks ago I was watching Sixty Minutes after the ball game and saw a segment on “Rodriguez: The Rock Icon That Didn’t Know It” and one of the songs that was featured aroused an old scratchy vinyl memory. It came up from someplace between Dylan and Donovan, Phil Ochs and Gil Scott-Heron. I knew that I’d heard that guy before. I went on the internet and ordered the re-releases of his two original LP’s and got tickets to his upcoming gig at the House of Blues Peacock Room. Like so many other folks, I was seized by the story.
Sixto Rodriguez was the sixth child (hence the name Sixto) of Mexican immigrants living in the Detroit area. Sixto learned the guitar and vocal style that would influence his music from his father. He was writing songs and playing covers in Detroit dives and bars before he was eighteen.
A couple of the local musicians took note of his talents and steered him to some of the Mo-Town music and production folks that ended up signing him to a 3 LP contract. In 1969 they recorded “Cold Fact”, Rodriguez’s first LP. The lyrics were perceptive, cutting and unrepentive, but the production style was formulated to be marketed on AM radio. It was like wrapping a chain saw in pink ribbons. In the production company’s defense, FM was a fairly new medium and anyone that wanted to get serious airplay was aiming for the AM market.