I Wonder

Love your music and your songs. I have “I Wonder” at the top of my Songlist and It is requested by many people when I perform. Wrote a few new verses to “I Wonder” as well. Thank you for your wonderful music!

Larrie Cook

‘Sugar Man’ Sixto Rodriguez wins battle for royalties payout ahead of 80th birthday | Mirror Exclusive

https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/sugar-man-sixto-rodriguez-wins-27146924

Sixties rocker Sixto Rodriguez, who found mainstream fame in the documentary Searching for Sugar Man, is finally enjoying the fruits of his labours at the age of 80

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez performs on stage at Clyde Auditorium
Sixto Diaz Rodriguez performs on stage at Clyde Auditorium (Image: Redferns via Getty Images)

By Graeme Culliford, 4 June 2022

He is a best-selling musician few people in the northern hemisphere had ever heard of until his story was told in 2012’s Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man.

Even Sixto Rodriguez himself didn’t know how famous he was in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand… because the money wasn’t exactly rolling in. Now the mystery of his missing royalties has been solved at last, and the 70s folk rocker – likened to Bob Dylan – has finally been paid his dues.

The American singer spent decades working as a builder and had no idea he was famous until he was tracked down by a couple of obsessed fans from South Africa. His records bombed in the States and his record label failed to alert him to the fact that he had developed a cult following overseas.

Now, ahead of his 80th birthday next month, we can reveal that Rodriguez has finally been paid the royalties he was owed and – after decades of living hand to mouth – he has made enough money to retire. But he still lives in the same modest house in Detroit and refuses to let his fame go to his head.

Searching for Sugar Man
Searching for Sugar Man (Image: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock)

Stephen Segerman, 67, is one of the fans who tracked him down. The pair are now friends, and record shop owner Stephen says: “He’s a very philosophical about what happened and I don’t think he’s held on to any anger.

“He’s a lovely, humble guy and, although success happened very late for him in life, he’s just happy people found out about his music and that he’s now famous around the world.

“There was a court case that sorted out his publishing, so he started getting all the money he deserved.

“He knows that his life is just about as good as it can be – and there is no doubt his is one of the most amazing stories in rock history.”

Rodriguez wrote his seminal album Cold Fact in 1970, swiftly followed by Coming From Reality a year later. His lyrics delve into inner-city poverty and drug use – Sugar Man is the first track on Cold Fact.

Sixto Rodriguez performs on stage
Sixto Rodriguez performs on stage (Image: WireImage)

Music producers had high hopes he was the next big thing and he was signed by famed Sussex Records boss Clarence Avant, who had previously worked with soul star Bill Withers and was known as the Black Godfather.

Rodriguez, however, was cripplingly shy and turned his back on the audience while playing on stage at a key concert in Los Angeles. He sold only six records in the US, according to Avant.

He faded into obscurity and went back to working in the construction industry in his hometown of Detroit.

Rodriguez later said of his decision to quit: “I would have loved to have continued, but nothing beats reality, so I pretty much went back to work. I do hard labour, demolition, renovating buildings. I do enjoy it. It keeps the blood circulating and keeps you fit.”

Simon Chinn and Malik Bendjelloul, winners of the Documentary award for "Searching For Sugar Man" at the Academy Awards
Simon Chinn and Malik Bendjelloul, winners of the Documentary award for ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ at the Academy Awards (Image: Getty Images)

Little did he know that a few copies of his albums had made their way to the southern hemisphere, where they became a huge hit.

In South Africa, a number of his songs were banned by the apartheid government as they became a soundtrack to the revolution that eventually led to the fall of the regime in 1994. “In the 80s, every liberal white teenager in South Africa had a copy of Cold Fact,” says South African fan Karin Wright, 50. “It was blasted out at every party. We had no idea Rodriguez wasn’t a massive star worldwide.”

In Australia and New Zealand, rare copies began changing hands for hundreds of dollars.

His albums sold 500,000 copies in South Africa alone. They are said to have outsold both Elvis and the Rolling Stones in that country, and in New Zealand and Australia too.

Yet Rodriguez remained an enigma, a mystery lurking behind sunglasses. Fans could find out little about him.

Rodriguez and Stephen "Sugar" Segerman
Rodriguez and Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman (Image: Getty Images)

Rumours abounded that he had set himself on fire on stage, died of a drug overdose or joined a left-wing terrorist group. Stephen had no connection to Rodriguez when he decided to solve the mystery with music journalist Craig Bartholomew Strydom.

In 1997, Craig spoke to a US producer who told him Rodriguez was still alive. Stephen then set up a website dedicated to the singer that caught the attention of his daughter Eva, who got in touch.

Stephen said: “When Craig and I set out on our search, all we wanted to know was, ‘How did this guy die?’

“Then one day, at 2am, the phone rang and I knew it was him straight away, because I knew his voice. It’s impossible to describe how I felt. Can you imagine Elvis calling and saying, ‘This is Elvis.’ How would you feel?”

In 1998, Rodriguez flew to South Africa to play a series of sold-out concerts to enraptured fans. He went on to tour the world, including London, earning hundreds of ­thousands of pounds. Then Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul got wind of the story and contacted Stephen to ask if he could help him shoot a documentary.

Rodriguez performs at the CityFolk Festival
Rodriguez performs at the CityFolk Festival (Image: WireImage)

Searching for Sugar Man won Best Documentary Feature at the 2013 Academy Awards, as well as a BAFTA that year.

Intensely shy Rodriguez refused to attend the ceremony in LA, claiming he was busy playing gigs.

Two years later a lawsuit was filed in the States that eventually settled the issues of royalties, according to Stephen. The acclaim the documentary achieved has allowed Rodriguez to retire. Tragically, director Malik took his own life in 2014.

Stephen said: “When we went to the Vanity Fair party after the Oscars, we were so out of our depth. I was standing in the middle of this party watching Robert De Niro going past. There was an elderly guy with a buzz cut across the table, it turned out it was astronaut Buzz Aldrin. I felt like I’d landed on the moon.

Sixto is a cool customer
Sixto is a cool customer

“This whole thing has been a trip and such a wonderful experience. The only real downside to this story is that Malik is not around to see the effect his movie had. Malik was just a fun dude who came here and said, ‘I want to make this movie.’ Me and him drove around Cape Town with a camera woman shooting it.

“It’s so sad because he had the world at his feet and his movie helped bring Rodriguez to a whole new audience.

“A few years ago, I met two teenagers from China. They had watched a pirated version of the documentary and decided to buy a campervan and drive across Asia and Africa, all the way to my front door. That is the effect this story has on people.

“Rodriguez is delighted that people found out about his music and that he got to tour the world.”

Rodriguez, Your Music Still Inspires Us Today

I was listening to Cold Fact & Coming From Reality recently. Your music still inspires us today, so much so that I’m taking the time to write this. The lyrics, basslines, and rhythm have inspired me on my journey as an aspiring folk guitar player. The way you articulate your message in the artful manner and unique voice will never be replicated. I just want to let you know that you keep inspiring me every time I listen to your songs. Your name is right up there with Lennon, Dylan, Cat Stevens, Cohen, James Taylor… In fact you were much farther ahead of your time than any of them. Even though you’re 79, I was wondering whether you are thinking of touring or making new music? This generation needs a voice like yours now more than ever.

Anyways I hope you read this amongst the many fan mail letters you likely receive. And I hope you know just how much of an impact you have made and continue to make on all of us.

Thank you Rodríguez! Stay in good health 🙂

Keon Vazir

Saludos Rodriguez!

I just wanted to tell you that I am so happy to have discovered your music & amazing talent.

Thanks to that documentary, listening to you, your daughters & your fans just made me appreciate the kind noble person you are as well.

Wishing you & your family much happiness, good health & continuous positive energy!

Paula

Cause how many times can you wake up in this comic book and plant flowers?

April 2022 finds me still trying to plant flowers. Thank you for the inspiration to keep trying.

Gilbert

CAUSE

Cause I lost my job two weeks before Christmas
And I talked to Jesus at the sewer
And the Pope said it was none of his God-damned business
While the rain drank champagne

My Estonian Archangel came and got me wasted
Cause the sweetest kiss I ever got is the one I’ve never tasted
Oh but they’ll take their bonus pay to Molly McDonald,
Neon ladies, beauty is that which obeys, is bought or borrowed

Cause my heart’s become a crooked hotel full ofrumours
But it’s I who pays the rent for these fingered-face out-of-tuners
and I make 16 solid half hour friendships every evening

Cause your queen of hearts who is half a stone
And likes to laugh alone is always threatening you with leaving
Oh but they play those token games on Willy Thompson
And give a medal to replace the son of Mrs. Annie Johnson

Cause they told me everybody’s got to pay their dues
And I explained that I had overpaid them
So overdued I went to the company store
and the clerk there said that they had just been invaded
So I set sail in a teardrop and escaped beneath the doorsill

Cause the smell of her perfume echoes in my head still
Cause I see my people trying to drown the sun
In weekends of whiskey sours
Cause how many times can you wake up in this comic book and plant flowers?

Fan Message from Caroline in South Africa

Hey Rodriguez, I just want to say I love your music.

I bought your album Cold Fact when I was 11 years old. (Sadly subsequently stolen).


Such truth in your words.
(I was at a convent and got into trouble for playing your album on school break up day).

You are a genius, and I’m sorry you were robbed of your dues.
May you be blessed.

All the way from South Africa xxx

Caroline

It Was 24 Years Ago Today… That I Saw Rodriguez Play! | Brian Currin

Rodriguez and Brian Currin on the 7th March 1998... with just autographed, rolled-up set list clutched in his hand!
Rodriguez and Brian Currin on the 7th March 1998… with just autographed, rolled-up set list clutched in his hand!

The Set List

  1. I Wonder
  2. Only Good For Conversation
  3. Can’t Get Away
  4. Crucify Your Mind
  5. Jane S. Piddy
  6. To Whom It May Concern
  7. Like Janis
  8. Inner City Blues
  9. Street Boy
  10. A Most Disgusting Song
  11. I’ll Slip Away
  12. Halfway Up The Stairs
  13. I Think Of You
  14. Rich Folks Hoax
  15. Climb Up On My Music

    Encores:

  16. Sugar Man
  17. Establishment Blues
  18. Forget It

Scan of the sound engineer’s set list, dated and autographed.

Set List 7 March 1998

From Sweet Songs To Street Songs

Review by Brian Currin

From the simplistic, yet instantly recognisable bass guitar intro of I Wonder, to the last fading echoes of Thanks For Your Time, 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.

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 Digusting 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.

Originally posted on SugarMan.org

The Establishment Blues Animated Video

Rodriguez – This Is Not A Song, Its An Outburst, Or The Establishment Blues

Hi there,

My name is Jordan and I am from Toronto, Canada. I’m a huge fan of Rodriguez and have both albums on vinyl and listen to them often. I’m an animation student and for one of our projects we got to make a visual that would accompany a song – for mine I chose the Establishment Blues. I’ve attached a link to the youtube video, I hope you enjoy it and would love to know your thoughts!

I would be very happy if you would share this on the sugarman website and possibly the youtube page as well if possible.

Best,

Jordan Sahay



Fan Message from Detroit

My name is Beau, I’m a 20 year old folk singer in Detroit.

I found your music two years ago, when I was living in Hamtramck. Cold Fact seemed to define that year for me.

I always wanted to play music but I found it so hard to start. I heard your record and it kicked me into action. I had a thought like “here’s this amazing artist, from my city” That’s the year I started writing.

I put on your record today and I thought about that year: about the housing instability, the financial struggle, being alone. But I also thought about the fire it lit under me. I wanted to write songs that made me feel the way your music made me feel.

I needed to sing if I was gonna handle life these days.

I’m playing my first show this May. I’m doing so much better. Music is medicine I really believe that.

I know I’ve never met you but you are a mentor to me. When I think of my hometown I think of you. Thank you for helping me.

Beau

Fan Message from Australia

Hi Rodriguez,

My name is John. How are you? I hope you are well. I just wanted to say that I am a massive fan and have been since I was a teenager. I’m 47 now and it’s funny to think that I remember first listening to Cold Fact seems like yesterday.

I live in the Northern Rivers, New South Wales, Australia. A town called Lismore, not far from Byron Bay. I work as a disability support worker. One of my clients is a local Indigenous man who loves your music. He grew up listening to you too. His name is Thomas.
We always have your music playing in the car. Or if we’re just quietly watching the river after lunch.

That’s in fact, what we’re doing right now. And we both thank you for your awesome music.

Much love and respect from John and Thomas

Message for Rodriguez

Dear Sixto, since years I love your music. Until 2011 I have been the artistic director of a main German festival: JazzBaltica. I tried so often to get in touch and to invite you – it never worked. I am as old as you and now I live in Berlin – still hearing and loving your art. I am writing this today, because I have seen again the film “Searching for Sugar Man”, and this touched me deeply again. You are wonderful, my dream did not come true to meet you once but your music stays a main part of my live.

Love

Rainer Haarmann

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