An elderly man in a black fedora and heavy sunglasses shuffles hesitantly along a Detroit sidewalk. The wrong side of 70, his eyesight poor, the man’s sloped shoulders suggest decades of hard labor.
His name is Sixto Rodriguez, and he has indeed spent most of his life struggling to provide for his family by taking poorly paid jobs on local building sites. But he’s also a rock star — at times “bigger than Elvis” in Australia, New Zealand and especially South Africa, where he’s sold hundreds of thousands of records — and has been since the 1970s.
Makes no sense? Welcome to the modern Cinderella story of Rodriguez, an extraordinary saga whose singer-songwriter protagonist was denied a lifetime of fame and adulation through a combination of inadequate communication, some likely financial cynicism, and plenty of unfortunate geography. Meet the poet who moved a generation of young people more than 40 years ago but enjoyed their acclaim only when they and he had passed middle age.