A Night To Remember, 7th March 1998

From Sweet Songs To Street Songs

Rodriguez, 7th March 1998, photo: Brian Currin
Rodriguez, 7th March 1998, photo: Brian Currin

From the simplistic, yet instantly recognisable bass guitar intro of I Wonder, to the last fading echoes of Forget It, this was a show that enthralled everyone from the die-hard old fans with their balding heads and beer paunches to the new virgin devotees.

Set List 7th March 1998
Set List 7th March 1998

From sweet songs to street songs,
from bitter to beautiful,
from minor keys to metal mayhem,
from tear-jerker to tear-it-up,
from disgusting songs to rock anthems…this was truly a magic show of vast proportions.

Rodriguez has not released new material in over 25 years, he has no chart-topping singles, yet he opens to a standing ovation – and everybody sings along to all the songs.

Colin Taylor from KFM radio opened the show by shouting with great enthusiasm:
“Cape Town, put your hands together and welcome a true legend on stage – Rodriguez!”

Reuben Samuels started a slow drum beat and when Graeme Currie introduced that classic bass line (de-de de-de de-dum) the crowd went wild in instant recognition and when The Man slipped quietly onto the stage, the Velodrome stood up in adoration for this long-lost legend. I Wonder was wonderful and after the song, Rodriguez just stood and stared at the audience in awe.

Only Good For Conversation was done hard and heavy with great guitar from Willem Möller.
“..you’re so proper and so cute” sang Rodriguez with a smile in his voice.

Can’t Get Away was superb and when he started to sing the second verse again by mistake, the band supported him and the audience forgave him.

All the favourites followed with the arrangements staying very close to the originals and the crowd hanging on every word. Tonia Selley from The Pressure Cookies and Big Sky provided superb backing vocals throughout.

A highlight was the solo rendition of “A Most Disgusting Song” sung with great humour. “There’s someone here who’s almost a virgin I’m told” was met with much laughter.
And when he sang “…your government will provide the shrugs” a responsive chord was hit, even though this song was written in 1970!

Rodriguez doesn’t say much, he lets his music and words speak to us, but he did give us one message:

I want to wish you the best of luck
in everything you do,
you’re gonna do it,
you’re gonna solve it,
you’re gonna heal ’em,
you’re gonna do it

– perceptive and profound words from this poet and prophet.

And then into an absolutely incredible blues-rock version of Climb Up On My Music. Willem Möller burnt up his fretboard with a classic rock guitar solo and Russel Taylor played a jazzy-blues keyboard solo which left us breathless.

Rodriguez slipped away as the band ended the song, but soon returned to perform a 3-song encore starting with Sugar Man, then Establishment Blues and ending with the perfect show-closer Forget It with those poignant words “Thanks for your time“.

Thank you, Cape Town” sang Rodriguez.

No, thank YOU, Rodriguez – the mystery and myth may be gone, but the music and memories will live forever and the magic of that night will stay with us always.

— Brian Currin


Hi Wonder!

It’s hard to type when one’s feet refuse to stay on the ground. I still keep floating around from the euphoria of seeing two awe-inspiring concerts on the weekend, both by the same ou. I’m talking of course about Rodriguez who finally performed to his many South African fans and it’s difficult to decide who was more overawed by the confrontation.

Rodriguez had not performed since 1981 and even those concerts, in Australasia, did not nearly attract the same fans as the SA concerts, so, when Rodriguez walked out onto the stage at the Bellville Velodrome, he almost staggered backwards from the roar and vibes that poured onto the stage from the first night crowd. The performance that Friday night was fine if a little patchy but no-one seemed to notice. Rodriguez forgot the odd line and on a few occasions played at a different tempo to the band, who very professionally managed to plaster over these musical cracks.

Sugar and Family
Rodriguez, Sugar and his family and Eva

The second concert on Saturday night, however, was wonderful. A far larger crowd arrived due obviously to a strong local word-of-mouth promotion. Rodriguez and his band were prepared and well-rehearsed and once again the crowd maintained a remarkable level of energetic approval and non-stop singing to each and every song. All the age groups were represented, from 60-year-olds to young children, all caught up in the magic of the moment, signifying indisputably that Rodriguez’s music has passed the test of time and is not simply a ’70s phenomenon.

The response to these concerts was repeated throughout the tour. The two concerts in Johannesburg at the Standard Bank Arena were sold out and generated the same fanatical and ecstatic reaction. One of the Durban dates was replaced by a show at the Carousel complex outside Pretoria and that too was full. There is a strong feeling that this remarkable tour could be the spark that hopefully kick-starts Rodriguez’s long overdue world-wide recognition. Through the Internet, his fans all over the world have been closely monitoring these events in South Africa and requests for tours have been received from as far afield as Australia, Canada, England and the USA. Some United States newspapers have already started making enquiries, sensing a story in all of this!

Rodriguez is a humble, intelligent and sensitive man who deserves all the recognition he will no doubt be receiving. After both the Cape Town shows, he mingled with the assorted press and fans who had lingered backstage to meet him and shook hands, hugged, spoke to and signed autographs for each and every one of them until he was satisfied that no-one had been overlooked. As they say in Yiddish, he is really a mensch!

I am still quite overwhelmed by the whole Rodriguez situation. We all believed he was dead but he most certainly wasn’t and here he was recreating his music that meant so much to so many people for so long. I will always remember singing along to all those songs that are so deeply embedded in my/our memories, but three special memories stand out for me. The first was seeing Rodriguez’s two daughters, Eva and Regan, sitting at the foot of the stage watching their father perform. Eva was a teenager when Rodriguez toured Australia and Regan was much younger. The pride and joy that radiated in their faces was quite beautiful.

The second was the guitar solo by Willem Möller that turned the band’s jammed improvised version of ‘Climb Up On My Music’ into the high(est)light of a concert packed with highlights. The third image I have is of Arno Carstens, lead singer with the Springbok Nude Girls, standing transfixed at the base of the stage watching Rodriguez perform. On his T-shirt was the simple yet ironic slogan that seemed to sum up the whole evening. It read: “Dead people are cool!”

— Stephen “Sugar” Segerman

Truth and Beauty: “Searching for Sugar Man”

Truth and Beauty: "Searching for Sugar Man"

What happens to gifted artists who slip through the cracks?

Searching for Sugar Man” takes us on an 85-minute journey to answer this question. We begin in the backseat of a convertible driving along a winding mountain highway, with the ocean on the right. The setting:  South Africa, where Mexican-American musician Sixto Rodriguez has a huge cult following. The narrator is in search of Rodriguez, but has no idea if he’s among the living, having heard that Rodriguez burned himself alive on stage.


Detroit. Some time in the mid-to-late ’60s. A foggy night.

“Here’s this voice,” says the speaker, who followed his ears into a dark, smoky bar, where he saw just a shadow in the back of the room. Moving closer, he noticed a singer hunched over an acoustic guitar, with his back turned to the crowd. Who was this man? 

One local who had bumped into Rodriguez in different areas of Detroit describes him as a “wandering spirit around the city,” and concludes “I thought he was a drifter.” A session musician who discovered Rodriguez and later co-produced his first album had no idea where Rodriguez lived at the time; he always asked to meet at a corner, then seemed to appear out of nowhere.

Truth and Beauty: "Searching for Sugar Man"

What we do know is that Rodriguez was a no-nonsense street poet who channeled his hard surroundings in Detroit, called “the city of small hopes” by one of his daughters.

Rodriguez’s first release, “Cold Fact” (1970), was a mix of blues, Dylanesque protest folk, singer-songwriter pop, and straight-up rock. Rodriguez’s voice and acoustic guitar drive the sound, while his co-arrangers add flute, horns, strings, and assorted psychedelia.


Palm Springs, CA. Steve Rowland, the producer of Rodriguez’s second album, “Coming from Reality” (1971), pulls out a book of photos he hasn’t looked at in 35 years, the last time he saw Rodriguez. As always, Rodriguez is hidden behind sunglasses in all of the photographs.

At the time Rowland produced “Reality,” he thought Rodriguez might be destined to fame and fortune, but the album went nowhere in the U.S.

Rodriguez was dropped from his label two weeks before Christmas, and disappeared.

Back to South Africa. Cape Town in the early ’70s. The country is  led by an oppressive, reactionary government that outlaws television, allows no independent media, and censors albums. Civil servants listen to records before they hit the racks, and scratch the grooves of any songs deemed offensive to make them unlistenable.

“Cold Fact” finds its way into South Africa via bootlegs and spreads like wildfire. Its messages of freedom and dissent appeal to young people bridling under a closed society which is isolated by government controls and external sanctions against a brutal Apartheid regime.

Truth and Beauty: "Searching for Sugar Man"

One of the kids liberated by “Cold Fact” is Stephen Segerman, who goes on a search for Rodriguez in the ’90s.

There are few concrete, cold facts about the artist known as Rodriguez. The songwriting credits on his debut album list three different names; album jacket photos from more than two decades earlier are all Segerman has to go on. In the liner notes to a South African label’s re-release of “Cold Fact,” Segerman asks if there are “any musicologist detectives out there?” who can help him in his quest.

Music journalist Craig Bartholomew Strydom finds out about the hunt and joins forces with Segerman, though he has heard a rumor that Rodriguez had fatally shot himself onstage after being booed.

Strydom follows the money, the route the royalties from Rodriguez’s platinum album sales in South Africa have traveled. He interviews Clarence Avant, the head of Rodriguez’s Sussex label. Avant praises Rodriguez’s work, but has no insight into why he flopped in his native country while his Detroit contemporaries (Grand Funk Railroad, Ted Nugent, Iggy Pop, Bob Seger) went on to successful careers. Avant has no answers about the royalties or Rodriguez’s fate after being dumped from the label.

In 1997, Segerman and Strydom set up a website dedicated to Rodriguez which solicits leads on the musician’s whereabouts.

A year later, they find a post from one Eva Rodriguez, who says she has information they might want. But she warns that “Sometimes the fantasy is best left alone.”

Truth and Beauty: "Searching for Sugar Man"

Segerman thought the story was over soon after finding this post, but it was just beginning. The last third of “Sugar Man” carries a number of surprises that I won’t reveal; do yourself a favor and see this movie.

Narrative arc aside, the heart of “Searching for Sugar Man” is a meditation on the power of art to transform and transcend reality.

As a co-worker points out, Rodriguez elevated the prosaic and the mundane, and turned the raw material of life into art, not unlike a silkworm. The interviewee then asks the audience, “Have you done that?”

© Dan Benbow, 2013

Reprinted by kind permission of Truth and Beauty: “Searching for Sugar Man”.

The Lions Share | Back from Reality – Rodriguez Live in Vicar Street, Dublin


It hardly needs saying but it’s quite an odd thing to have a venue packed out in Dublin to see the performance of a 70 year old guy on the basis of 2 albums he released over 40 years. Admittedly one of those albums, Cold Fact, is fantastic but the other one is pretty patchy. But here we in Vicar Street (upgraded from the Button Factory) to see Rodriguez who’s on riding high of the new wave of interest generated by the ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ documentary.

via The Lions Share | Back from Reality – Rodriguez Live in Vicar Street, Dublin.

‘Sugar Man’ becomes SA’s most successful doccie of all time – Times LIVE


The hit documentary about musician Rodriguez, which sold out in theatres across the country has become the most successful documentary of all time in South Africa.

Searching for Sugar Man has made over R2 million at the box office and is currently still screening exclusively at Cinema Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor Theatres – and shows continue to sell out.

via ‘Sugarman’ becomes SA’s most successful doccie of all time – Times LIVE.

Solid at 70 – Sixto Rodriguez at The Usher Hall | The Edinburgh Reporter


It seems fitting that the American septuagenarian should play Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, the same stage that The Rolling Stones played a good while back, on the same night that they were reforming in London, with an average age of 68.

The fact that Rodriguez is 70 was not lost on his audience, but neither was the fact that his individual voice remains all that it ever was.

via Solid at 70 – Sixto Rodriguez at The Usher Hall : The Edinburgh Reporter.

Rodriguez – Live At Royal Festival Hall, London | Reviews | Clash Magazine

Rodriguez | Photo by Stephen Fourie
Rodriguez | Photo by Stephen Fourie


If you don’t know the story of Rodriguez yet, then don’t read this – go and watch this year’s amazing documentary Searching for Sugar Man, then come back to us. For those who know the tale behind the man, you may still be in a sense of awe that he is here: one half a seventy-year-old man, slightly stooped and with failing eye sight; one half an absolute legend.

Sixto Rodriguez is playing his second major gig of the week in London at Royal Festival Hall as part of the London Jazz Festival, just a few days after taking to the stage at the Roundhouse. On first glance, the crowd seem wary of his weakness as he’s brought on stage by his daughter. But the rapturous applause, maybe the most noise the walls of this usually cautious venue has ever heard, seem to lift him. When the guitar, the shades and the hat go on, this slight man from Detroit, the son of Mexican immigrants who’s worked his fingers to the bone in manual labour most of his life, turns into the superstar he always was… even though he never knew it.

via Rodriguez – Live At Royal Festival Hall, London | Reviews | Clash Magazine.

A Day In The Life: Rodriguez :: Blogs :: 1000 Words :: Paste

Rodriguez, photo: Doug Seymour
Rodriguez, photo: Doug Seymour

When Sixto Rodriguez recorded his debut album Cold Fact in 1969, he dreamed of pop stardom. But, far from the epicentre of the late ’60s folkie scene, the Detroit-based son of Mexican immigrants found that his defining statement was criminally overlooked.

Rodriguez went back to reality, working as a gas station attendant, studying philosophy, campaigning for local government and sticking to his principals. But over time, Cold Fact was rediscovered in the strangest places. Through circumstance and chance, Rodriguez learned he had become a cult figure in South Africa, where Cold Fact had become a beacon of counter-cultural pop for legions of fans who presumed its creator dead. By ’98 he was playing a series of sold-out arena shows in South Africa and Australia.

via A Day In The Life: Rodriguez :: Blogs :: 1000 Words :: Paste.

Rodriguez: The Story of Sugar Man | WGN

Rodriguez: The Story of Sugar Man | WGN
Rodriguez: The Story of Sugar Man | WGN

Rodriguez. Its a name recognized by many things in today’s society. From athletes to movie stars, the name associates with many things. Never has it been associated with the Detroit and the music Detroit it produced. Until now.

People often think of Detroit and its music scene as Motown – with names like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson. As an artist that was part of that musical melting pot, Rodriguez desperately tried to break in to the music business in his hometown.

via Rodriguez: The Story of Sugar Man | WGN.

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