The other reason why I didn’t do so much about the money was Rodriquez. He is a really, really different man when it comes to that stuff. I never met anyone like him. He literally doesn’t want it. You first think it’s crazy, but when you think about it, it actually makes sense. He never started to consume. And when you don’t consume there are a lot of sacrifices, of course; you can’t buy stuff and you can’t do stuff and you can’t go travelling to Mexico on nice vacations, but you also win something. You gain some freedom. No one can every tell him he has to do this, because he can always say, no I don’t need to, because I don’t need your money. I have to do stuff that I don’t want often, because I have this lifestyle that I’ve started to support. So why didn’t I say more about money? Because in the end it was only me that cared about money, because I am a normal guy who cares about money and you are too that’s why you asked that question, but he doesn’t. His is a different story. He is a different guy. – Malik Bendjelloul
Two South Africans go on a quest to find cult US musician Sixto Rodriguez, whose lyrics of struggle and injustice had a huge impact in their apartheid-stained country in the ’70s. Cue a gloriously happy ending. The film is out on DVD and Blu-ray on 27 December. Best bit: The feverish reception for Rodriguez when he visits South Africa.
4. SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN – A documentary? A mystery? Or a musical? The story of how a couple of South African fans who set off on a trans-Atlantic journey to discover what happened to their musical hero, Rodriguez, forgotten 1970s American folk singer, will move you in so many ways. A future Oscar winner? Bet on it.
When people gather and talk about the singer-songwriters they admire, the same familiar names usually recur: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell: all legends whose music has lasted through the decades, from the 1960s to the present day. Very few would mention Jesus ‘Sixto’ Rodriguez – unless they were South African.
For those who haven’t seen 2012’s most successful documentary, Searching for Sugar Man, let me explain. Rodriguez, a young singer-songwriter from Detroit – whose music could best be described as ‘Donovan-esque’ – released two albums, Cold Fact (1970) and Coming from Reality (1971).
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.
I am so proud to release the first official illustrated tee shirts of Rodriguez and honored to have been asked to scribble the magic, approved by the man himself. Special thanks to Light In The Attic, David Black (photographer of wonder), Stella Berkofsky, and Rodriguez’s family, for helping make this project happen. Rodriguez’s music is a very personal labor of love-it has hit many heart strung moments and inspired greatly for ages. Beyond that, his story is legendary even beyond the gifts he gives all musically: selfless, talented, and genuine: we salute.
While he was long forgotten in the US, Rodriguez was unwittingly achieving mythical status in South Africa. Decades later, he tells Fiona Shepherd about fame after 40 years in the wilderness
IN THE internet age, it seems inconceivable that an artist could be unaware of their own success or that fans would have no idea if their favourite singer was alive or dead. Nowadays you have to work pretty hard to be an enigma and, conversely, even the most neglected musician would struggle to languish in complete obscurity.
Which makes the tale of a Detroit protest singer who scraped a living in the United States while his music was providing hope to tens of thousands in apartheid-era South Africa sound all the more romantic. “It’s been described as a rock’n’roll fairytale,” says the protagonist, one Sixto Diaz Rodriguez.
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.
The Searching for Sugar Man juggernaut rolls on as Malik Bendjelloul’s sleeper hit about the unlikely resurrection of singer-songwriter Rodriguez copped the jury prize for Best International Documentary at the 10th Beefeater In-Edit music documentary festival in Barcelona.
The awards were presented Saturday on the penultimate night of In-Edit, which drew around-the-block queues for dozens of new and vintage music films for 10 nights in the Catalan capital’s university district. It’s the eighth festival to honor Sugar Man since its Audience Award-winning breakout at Sundance in January. Released theatrically in July by Sony Pictures Classics, the film has also done $2.2 million in box office as of late October – pretty serious numbers for a music documentary, especially one about an obscure bard whose two early ’70s albums sank without a trace in his US homeland but became massive hits in South Africa. (For a bit of context, that’s $800,000 than Marley has taken in.)
On 6th March 1998, when Sixto Rodriguez walks out on to the stage at the Bellville Velodrome for his first South African performance, a 25-year-old mystery will end and a new story will begin. This will be “the answer that, makes the questions disappear”.
The mystery that will be solved is: what ever happened to Rodriguez, the artist who recorded the cult album ‘Cold Fact’ that has been so hugely popular in South Africa since 1971? There have been so many rumours and urban legends all these years. Stories that he was dead, blind and imprisoned have all proved to be false. The simple truth is that nothing happened to Rodriguez. South Africans didn’t know where he was and he barely knew where South Africa was. He knew of Australia and his fans there because he had successfully toured there in 1979 and again in 1981. Since then he had continued his full and varied existence in his hometown and birthplace, Detroit, Michigan. He had raised three daughters, Eva, Sandra and Regan, received a BA Philosophy degree from Wayne State University, travelled around America with a North America Indian tribe and stood as a candidate for public office on numerous occasions, including for the position of mayor of Detroit.
His four recorded albums,’Coming From Reality (After The Fact)’,’Cold Fact’,’The Best Of Rodriguez’ and ‘Rodriguez Alive’, continued to sell consistently and were eventually released on CD, with the exception of the ‘Alive’ album. This was a recording made on his 1979 Australian tour which received a one-year-only limited vinyl release in Australia and is therefore very scarce and collectable.
Besides his continuing success in South Africa and Australasia, however, Rodriguez is virtually unknown in the USA, England and Europe. It was the ex-South Africans who left their homeland in the ’70s and ’80s who spread the word about these albums in these areas. If’is hoped that even though Rodriguez is now well into his 50s, the success of this South African tour will kick-start his belated but deserved career in the USA and Europe. Tours to Australasia and Canada are being considered, as is the possibility of some new recorded material as well as a live CD from the South African Tour.
The revival in Rodriguez’s career happened as a result of the South African release on CD of his debut album ‘Coming From Reality (After The Fact)’. The liner notes that accompanied this CD raised the question of what had happened to Rodriguez and whether there were any “musicologist detectives” out there who felt motivated enough to find out. Well, there was one in Johannesburg and Craig Bartholomew immediately began his one-year search that resulted in him locating and speaking to Rodriguez in August 1997. At the same time, contact was made with Rodriguez’s daughter Eva through an Internet website that had been established to try and find the missing artist. Soon Rodriguez became very aware of South Africa and the large cult following that he enjoyed there as well as the thousands of his CDs that were still being sold there year after year. At this stage Rodriguez himself did not have copies of his own albums; all he had was a copy of ‘Cold Fact’ on a reel-to-reel tape!
In October 1997, Rodriguez, who is a very private and reserved person, was described by his daughter Eva as follows: “My father is in great health physically and mentally. In my eyes, he is ageless, creative, strong, intellectual and different. He has kept his hand and his mind on the music, living a surprisingly average and somewhat alternative life. He has raised three daughters, labored, got an education, ran for political office and pays dues and debts like the rest of us.”
News of his discovery and impending tour was received with a sense of amazement and disbelief by his many fans in South Africa. Nothing short of the news of a joint tour by Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison could have aroused such a reaction. Well, Rodriguez is very much alive and living in Detroit and now, 27 years after his music first appeared in South Africa, he is performing in this country. We South Africans have been privileged to witness many awe-inspiring and wondrous political, musical and sporting events during the past few years. We have witnessed concerts by some of the biggest names in contemporary music. However, this tour must surely rate as one of the most unexpected and eagerly-anticipated musical events ever in our history. It is with great pleasure we South Africans welcome Sixto Rodriguez to our country.
What a wonderful evening! Rodriguez rocked the Whale Hall in Hartenbos and despite some comments to the contrary I think the new arrangements of his songs are stunning. The saxes really drive songs like ‘Climb Up On My Music’ and ‘Only Good For Conversation’ and that Rock and Roll medley (‘Shake Rattle & Roll’, Bob Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ & ‘Hound Dog’) was pure energy from the band and Rodriguez.
I particularly enjoyed the long trippy interlude during ‘Sugar Man’ when Pete Saunders (ex-Dexy’s Midnight Runners) played this real spacey, jazzy piano sound, a bit like Mike Garson used to do for David Bowie in the 70s.
The hall wasn’t full, but the crowd were so enthusiastic, I kept looking back to check where all the cheering was coming from. Rodriguez spent a lot of time smiling and thanking the Big Town Playboys. And he thanked us in Afrikaans; “Baie Dankie”, he said, “…for keeping me alive”. And he came down to the front of the stage a few times to shake hands and he smiled broadly when a girl in the audience shouted: “Rodriguez I love you”.
Rodriguez hasn’t ever recorded any cover versions, and on his last SA tour in 1998 he played only his own music. But this time around he showed what a true legend he really is by making Midnight Oil’s ‘Redneck Wonderland’ his own, then adding bits of ‘The Letter’ and ‘Unchain My Heart’ in the middle of it.
At the soundcheck in the afternoon they played ‘Unchained Melody’ as well but it didn’t appear in the evening’s performance.
A medley of Vanessa Williams 1992 hit ‘Save The Best Till Last’ and ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love’ (written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach and a hit for Jackie deShannon in 1965) was dedicated to the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks… a very moving moment.
After the gig Rodriguez sat and signed autographs until everybody had gone home. A great night in the company of great musicians. Thanks for your time, Rodriguez.
— Brian Currin, 18 September 2001
Medley: Save The Best Till Last (Vanessa Williams) / What The World Needs Now Is Love (Jackie DeShannon) dedicated to the victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks, 11th September 2001
Released for the first time on CD is the long awaited retrospective of South Africa’s legendary original punk band, Wild Youth. This massive 23 track set includes all of Wild Youth’s late 70`s seminal singles, live and demo tracks plus several songs from the band’s alter ego outfit, The Gay Marines. Wild Youth are prominently featured in the film documentary “Punk in Afrika”, currently showing in key US and European film festivals.
Volume 3 of our acclaimed Astral Daze series find us in the company of some well known ‘underground’ bands (Freedom’s Children, Abstract Truth, The Bats) and some lesser known luminaries of the psych rock era (The Gentle People, Finder’s Keepers, 004’s, Wakeford Hart). The compilation is rounded off with some real classics including engineer Peter Pearlson’s 2011 remix of Hawk’s ‘Here comes the sun’ and Sharon Tandy’s psych collaboration with UK rockers Fleur De Lys.
Almost all the recent fan messages on the Sugarman.org website are from people saying they have never heard of Rodriguez before. Many even apologize for not listening to him in the 1970s.
I can’t remember when exactly I first heard ‘Cold Fact’. For me his music just always seemed to have been there. A number of the mixtapes from my teenage years show “Sugar Man”, “Rich Folks Hoax” and “I Wonder” as being from 1973/74 when I was about 14/15.
I was wrong, of course, but didn’t know that until much later.
A long time ago, I compiled a series of C90 mixtapes called The Story Of Rock, with all the information lovingly catalogued and hand-written in hard cover books.
Page 13 of Book 7 shows the track listing for “The Story Of Rock 1973 to 1974” and includes the following songs:
Long Train Running – The Doobie Brothers
We Live – Xit
Sugar Man – Rodriguez
Radar Love – Golden Earring
Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
The Ballad Of Casey Deiss – Shawn Phillips
Rich Folks Hoax – Rodriguez
We’re An American Band – Grand Funk Railroad
Other artists include Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers Band, Yes, Focus, Chicago and more. And Rodriguez was the only one that got two entries! The next page shows “The Story Of Rock 1974 to 1976” and includes “I Wonder” alongside songs by Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Pink Floyd, Genesis, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Uriah Heep, Nazareth and others.
I am finding it impossible to imagine what it must be like to not grow up listening to his music alongside all those other well-known classic rock bands. I know I never heard him on the radio, but that wasn’t that strange as a number of my “Story Of Rock” artists didn’t get much radio play any way.
But that he wasn’t famous in the rest of the world, didn’t cross my mind. When I first discovered the internet during the 1996 Festive Season, I could find information on Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, however I could find nothing on Rodriguez. And that started me on a quest, that just seems to be continuously having happy endings.
Without trying to sound too melodramatic, I would not be living the life I do now, and earning my income from doing what I love, if it was not for Rodriguez and all the sparks that he ignited.
Woman please be gone You’ve stayed here much too long Don’t you wish that you could cry Don’t you wish I would die
Seamy, seesaw kids Childwoman on the skids The dust will choke you blind The lust will choke your mind
I kiss the floor, one kick no more The pig and hose have set me free I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree
I kiss the floor, one kick no more The pig and hose have set me free I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree
The inner city birthed me The local pusher nursed me Cousins make it on the street They marry every trick they meet
A dime, a dollar they’re all the same When a man comes in to bust your game The turnkey comes, his face a grin Locks the cell I’m in again.
I kiss the floor, one kick no more The pig and hose have set me free I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree…
[Song published by Interior Music (BMI)]
This song was not actually written by Rodriguez, but sure sounds like it could have been. It was written by Gary Harvey, Mike Theodore (‘Cold Fact’ producer) and Dennis Coffey (guitarist on ‘Cold Fact’). “Hate Street” actually refers to the famous “Haight/Ashbury” area of San Francisco, the famous Hippie hang-out during the late 60’s “Summer Of Love”.
…for years the title ‘Hate Street Dialogue’ has been bothering me, when I listened to the song I gathered the lyrics were referring to the famous hippie street in San Francisco: Haight/Ashbury, however the title on the album is spelt “Hate”. Rodriguez said (on a SA radio phone-in show in March 1998) that although the lyrics of that particular song were not written by himself they did refer to the Haight and not to the opposite of love.
– Stelios, 1998
PIG AND HOSE
In this song Rodriguez sings about being set free by “the pig and hose”. Could this mean a policeman (“pigs” was hippy slang for cops) and a piece of hose-pipe?
The quote: “pig and hose to bust our game” from the song “Hate Street Dialogue”, refers to the continual harassment of the hippy-subculture by the San Francisco police department on the Haight-Ashbury youth in 1967. “Pig” was the referrel to the POLICE, and “hose” was in reference to the length of “garden-hose” used to beat the citizens into submission [usually in the confines of the police station. The title was changed in spelling from “Haight Street”, to “Hate Street” to further emphasize that feeling of alienation, by both sides of the establishment, at that time.
– Gary W Harvey, June 2002
BLACK EYED SUSAN
South African Indie melodic grunge-rockers Black Eyed Susan recorded the album ‘Back Stabbers & Money Grabbers’ in January 1998 and released it in May 1998. Included on their album is an uptempo remake of this classic ‘Cold Fact’ song. Not actually written by Rodriguez, this song of urban decay and loneliness fits perfectly on Black Eyed Susan’s album of otherwise original material. A great version on an even greater album. If you like your rock modern-but-retro, grungy-yet-tuneful, this album is for you.
GARY W. HARVEY 4th September 2001, Darin J. Harvey wrote:
I was amazed that I finally found something about Sixto Rodriguez on the net and that I could finish a long quest with the help of your website.
Two years ago my father, Gary W. Harvey, mentioned while I was visiting him in Detroit, that he received a check for percentage for the lyrics of a song he wrote some thirty years ago! He wasn’t sure about the facts and he could only tell me the name of the song (which he thought was “Haight Street Dialog”) and that he originally wrote that one for a guy named Rodriguez. But the check was for a cover version from a band of South Africa!
Back in Germany, where I live, I started my search with the weak information I had! As I couldn’t find any hint for Rodriguez or that song I stopped my search after a few weeks! Now nearly two years later, I remembered my search and tried again! And yep, I got some hits!
My first hit was, that the song wasn’t named “Haight Street dialog” but “Hate Street Dialogue”, which brought me on the trail of “Black Eyed Susan” and finally lead me to “Sixto Rodriguez”!
So I read the facts you collected in your website and after all I could buy me a copy of ‘Cold Fact’ through Amazon.com, Germany (which was amazing that they could supply it in Germany). Two days later I received the album and now I really love it – as it’s interesting, unique and simply good music!
It turned out that my Dad also wrote the lyrics from the song “Gommorah”. He really was amazed that I could find the stuff we talked about two years ago and as I forwarded the links to him, so he could surf through by himself!
If you ever have the chance, get yourself a copy of the first Rare Earth Album “Dreams/Answer” on Verve Records! You might find some parallels as it was produced by the same team back then!
28th September 2001, Darin wrote again:
I would be pleased if you quote my e-mail on your website and your e-mag!
I’m so happy that I could expose some old stories and connection with the help of your work and website!
Meanwhile I got contact with Francois Bredenkamp from the “Black Eyed Susan” and even with Mike Theodore, the Producer of “Cold Fact”.
Francois Bredenkamp was very surprised and pleased to receive my mail and promised to send me a copy of their album. Unfortunately his band doesn’t exist anymore!
This is what he wrote me:
It’s a great surprise and pleasure to hear from you. We fell in love with the song lyrics and decided to make a remake. We are a South African based independent band, but unfortunately Black Eyed Susan does not exist anymore. I don’t know if you are aware of this but Rodriguez is an legend in our country. He is currently touring here till the end of September and I will watch him in Pretoria this Sunday.
This was definitely the most rewarding mail we have ever received for our efforts as a struggling rock band. (Francois Bredenkamp)
A few days later I received a mail from Mike Theodore (who’s still working as a producer in New Jersey, USA) and I was very amazed, as I didn’t try to contact him! He got information through my Dad, that I searched for Rodriguez and Black Eyed Susan!
Since I have the Rodriguez album ‘Cold Fact’, I introduced it to some friends and co-workers and everyone liked it and thought it’s very unique! They’ve been surprized that he’s totally unknown here, and that he’d never made it in Germany.