Some people refer to Sixto Rodriguez as the Jesus rock star because he rose from a lifetime of obscurity in his home country to stardom, albeit in a faraway land on a different continent. And even there, despite his cult status in South Africa, he was believed to be dead due to a myth that he had set himself on fire at the end of a show to the last lines of a song: “Thanks for your time. And you can thank me for mine. And after that’s said, Forget it. Bag it, man.”
Rodriguez was the sixth child of Mexican immigrants living in Detroit. Influenced by his father’s music, he was writing songs and performing in bars before he was eighteen. That was where it all started—his soulful, Dylan-like melodies and prophetic lyrics attracted the attention of two music producers. They cut an album, and though it failed in the US, a bootleg recording made it to South Arica. That was during the apartheid years in the 1970s, and somehow the lyrics articulated the feelings of those—black and white—who resisted the enforced racial segregation of the time. His music soon became a political statement.