I hope you’re all well. I live in England and I just wanted to share my Rodriguez story with you.
I buy cd collections from people in the vain hope of finding the hidden gem you can’t stop playing. Well a few months ago I got a pile from a charity and it had Coming From Reality in the box. I’d never heard of Rodriguez so it ended up on the listen pile and I couldn’t stop listening to it! I had no idea of his back story but I mentioned it to a few friends and was told watch Searching For Sugar Man. So this morning that’s just what I did and what an amazing and heartbreaking story! I had tears in my eyes watching him come on stage. Cold Facts has gone from the Christmas list to the being delivered tomorrow list.
It’s an absolute disgrace that someone has made a LOT of money from your huge talent but that’s the music business and it will never change. I hope your heart is warmed more by the fact that you have brought so many people so much happiness and will continue to do so forever.
Thank you Rodriguez, you are a wonderful person with an enormous talent.
Sixto Díaz Rodriguez, the previously obscure (to Americans, at least) subject of the Oscar-winning 2012 documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” had been scheduled to play at The Cabot this past April. In what proved to be an optimistic assessment of COVID-19’s staying power, the show was rescheduled for June.
Alas, his visit to Beverly is not among those that are now on the 2021 calendar.
That’s because the singer-songwriter – whose preternatural talent was captured on the early 1970s albums “Cold Fact” and “Coming from Reality” – has been tapped as one of many marquee performers participating in The Cabot’s 100th anniversary virtual celebration on Thursday, Dec. 3.
Though the Herald Citizen’s interview with Rodriguez was conducted by phone in February with the plan of previewing his spring concert, much of what was discussed still serves the same purpose for next week’s celebratory event.
The Detroit native described his family as “musical people who danced and sang.” Thus, Rodriguez grew up in a household of people who played music themselves rather than listening to records on a turntable. “I think they were more live,” he explained.
Mississippi-born electric blues guitarist and songwriter Jimmy Reed is the one specific artist Rodriguez names when asked about his influences. However, he tried to understand the style of “anyone playing guitar,” including folk artists who didn’t “write only boy-girl songs.”
On that latter point, Rodriguez aimed to “broaden the scope” as a lyricist when he began composing songs as a teenager.
“I’m Mexican, you know, so English is my second language,” he said.
“I have a lot respect for the English language … I play with the words,” he added, affirming his interest in how words can be manipulated and used to mean different things.
“Literature is based on experience and personal interpretation,” he also averred, indirectly describing his approach to lyric writing.
Statements like this make it unsurprising that the 78-year-old has a degree in philosophy (from Detroit’s Wayne State University, which he has long lived a few blocks from) and profoundly admires the American philosopher, psychologist, and Harvard professor William James.
“He was very optimistic,” Rodriguez said of the founder of pragmatism. “I’m optimistic. I want to live to be 350 years old. But like you, I can only do one day at a time.”
While this might be true on a personal level, Rodriguez’s lyrics are frequently far from Pollyannish with regard to societal or political concerns. For example, his 1970 song “This Is Not a Song, It’s an Outburst: or, The Establishment Blues” includes lyrics such as “Public gets irate/but forgets the vote date,” “gun sales are soaring/housewives find life boring,” and “Adultery plays the kitchen/bigot cops nonfiction.”
The recent election was nine months away when the conversation happened. As would be expected of a self-described “musico-politico” who has run for local offices in the past, Rodriguez had some thoughts on the matter.
“I’m supporting Bernie Sanders,” he shared. “I made posters for him and I carry them around.”
Asked about the then-non-lame duck Oval Office occupant, he responded, “My first line of the show is, ‘I have something to say to the commander-in-chief.’ Then I put on my hat and I shake my head down. That’s what I think of this administration.”
Expert songwriting and sage-like wisdom aside, Rodriguez is a modest and unassuming human being. That likely comes from decades of being more or less forgotten as a musician (though not everywhere, as the documentary makes abundantly clear) despite his immense talent.
Eight years of previously unexpected time in the spotlight and the economic windfall brought about by extensive touring has done nothing to change this.
“I put a roof on my house. I got new floors and new doors,” is his answer to whether he has afforded himself any indulgences. “I’m proud of the place.”
This is the same house seen in “Searching for Sugar Man,” and which a 2013 MLive article reports his having paid $50 for in 1976.
« Sugar Baz », newly released by French electro producer Yul with Baz, a young Ukulele-playing singer, is a modern and sensuous cover version of the classic Sugar Man, Sixto Rodriguez’s jewel rediscovered less than a decade ago. Single released July 17th 2020 on Résiste records.
Thank you for your music. 50 years later a new generation of musicians is still influenced by your beautiful songwriting and is rediscovering your songs, that fit perfectly in the crazy world we live in. No matter what happened in the past – your music is immortal.
Silver, Magic Ships you carried….I’ll keep you alive cause’ I climbed on to your music through my father and your songs have set me free, your birthday is around the corner and I hope you enjoy it.
I’m not wanting to promote myself as a musician, climb up to my music, love and music are free for all and to share devotion….in a few weeks I’ll finally record on a decent studio and I want you to know that my desire is to have the chance of playing one of your songs (please Sir, choose it I’ll sing for you all of my EP’s from the past, are garage recordings that are made of 6 songs, because the moon was hanging from a purple sky, but it will be shining as it always will do,
Sir it will be a true pleasure, if you have the chance of a virtual call….hope this brief letter gets to you… +52 998 845 61 78 I live in Cancún, México.
Just wish to say thank you for your music. I have been an instant fan the minute I saw Searching for Sugarman. I wonder (no pun intended) how you are these days and what you think about the times we are living in now. I hope you are writing new songs because I feel your voice and music could be a big help in the ongoing press for change in the USA and the rest of the west.
Hope to see one of your concerts this year. Peace to you and your family.
Love from Canada.
It’s the 50-year anniversary of Sixto Rodriguez’s “Cold Fact,” co-produced with Motown Funk Brother Dennis Coffey. Although the album took off internationally, it’s still a Detroit story.
One of music’s most fascinating stories originated in Detroit, but unfolded in South Africa and Australia when audiences in those countries embraced an album largely ignored in the states.
Sixto Rodriguez, born in Detroit to Mexican immigrants, became a singer/songwriter composing protest songs that reflected the disparities in our society.
This culminated on the album “Cold Fact” released in March, 1970 — 50 years ago this month. Most recently, the Academy Award winning documentary titled “Searching for Sugarman” helped introduce “Cold Fact” to a whole new audience.