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.
This mix opens with a recent cover version of “Sugar Man” by South African singer Rebekah Thompson.
This version plays under the closing credits of the 2019 film “Moffie” which is about a young man drafted into South Africa’s military, but he knows he is different and must keep himself hidden.
1. Sugar Man (from Moffie) – Rebekah Thompson 2. Heart Of Glass (Crabtree remix) – Blondie & Philip Glass 3. Adagio In G Minor – The Doors 4. Oblivion – M83 feat Susanne Sundfør 5. The Black Page #1 (piano version) – Ruth Underwood 6. Love Scene (from Zabriskie Point) – Richard Wright 7. The Rains Of Castamere (from Game Of Thrones) – Ramin Djawadi & Serj Tankian 8. Skyrim (Dragonborn) – Tina Guo 9. Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) – Emily Browning 10. Chasing The Dragon – Epica 11. Nymphetamine (Fix) – Cradle Of Filth feat Liv Kristine 12. Crazy In Love (2014 version) from Fifty Shades Of Grey – Beyoncé 13. Tomorrow Never Knows (from Sucker Punch) – Alison Mosshart & Carla Azar 14. Oh! Darling – Peachy Keen 15. Sugar Man – Barbara Moleko
Probably Rodriguez’s most well-known song. Rodriguez himself is also often referred to as The Sugar Man. A great song with superb instrumentation. This slow bluesy rock song is a paean to his drug dealer, however Rodriguez said on a TV interview in March 1998 that this song is “descriptive not prescriptive”. Great imagery and use of hippy slang, like “silver magic ships” and “sweet Mary Jane”, ensure the listeners’ interest. The psychedelic freak-out section in the middle reminds me of similar sections in Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and Uriah Heep’s ‘Gypsy’. – Brian Currin, 1998
“Cold Fact” opens with the ultra trippy Sugar Man, which may well have been straight out of an acid trip. “Sugar man met a false friend on a lonely dusty road, lost my heart, when I found it, it had turned to dead black coal” suggests just where exactly the inspiration came from as he goes on to list jumpers, coke and sweet Mary Jane. More than any other Rodriguez song, it is Sugar Man which personifies the artist in the minds of those who have always wondered. The eerie moog synthesizer, whistling in the background, the lazy and simple guitar chords and the dreamy nasal voice place the listener firmly in an era of fantasy. It sets a perfect tone for the album and the myth. – Andrew Bond, 1998
I’m not for drugs, I never advocated drug taking – Rodriguez, March 1998
What’s that song about anyway? – Rodriguez, 22 September 2001
This track was the first encore song on the 1998 South African tour. It was preceded by much chanting of “Su-gar Man, Su-gar Man…”. Were we calling for the song or the Man? Who knows, but he came and he sang and we loved it.
South African band Just Jinger also did a great cover of this song on their March 1998 EP “Something For Now”.
There have also been cover versions recorded by American band The Monkey Wrench and Australian band Stella One Eleven.
Kris Kristofferson recorded a completely different song called “Sugar Man” in 1972. Released on the “Jesus Was A Capricorn” album.
In 1991 The Escape Club also recorded a song titled “Sugar Man” (no relation to the Rodriguez song) on their “Dollars And Sex” CD.
In 2001 Rapper Nas sampled “Sugar Man” for his “You’re Da Man” track off “Stillmatic”.
In the December 2002 issue of UK music mag, MOJO, in the list “The 100 Greatest Drug Songs Ever!” “Sugarman” was at number 34.
You’d Like To Admit It
Extremely rare b-side of a seven single recorded in 1967 and credited to Rod Riguez.
This classic folk-rock song is the one that most people seem to associate with Rodriguez. Used as the show opener on the 1998 and 2001 SA tours. Simple in composition but penetrating in it’s lyrics.
It came as no surprise then that when “Cold Fact” hit the record racks, it became a hit, simply because it contained a phrase which would muddy the country’s sexually chaste waters and serve as a mantra to the youth: I wonder, how many times you’ve had sex… – Craig Bartholomew, 1997
Generation EXT’s slow hip-hop rap version of I Wonder was released on the compilation CD “Dance Connexion 17” in September 1998.
Only Good For Conversation
Classic fuzz metal guitar riff by Dennis Coffey opens this song, reminds me of Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke On The Water’. A harsh bitter song of lost love (..you’re the coldest bitch I know..), this track really rocks! Great bass line and a superb guitar solo. – Brian Currin, 1998
Climb Up On My Music
My favourite Rodriguez song and also one of my all-time favourite songs. Brilliant title and great lyrics. Excellent rock guitar from Chris Spedding and jazzy piano (by Phil Dennys?) make this song a classic. Wonderful production by Steve Rowland and superb stereo imaging. Listen to it!!
When performed live on the 1998 South African tour this track became a classic rock song of anthemic proportions. Willem Möller’s guitar solo is one of my magic moments in music. – Brian Currin, 1998
A wonderful instrumental duet for acoustic guitar and violin. Used as the intro for “Lifestyles”. Written by Rodriguez for his 2 daughters, Sandra and Eva. Sometimes mistitled as Sundrevan Lullaby.
…the musical part of Sandrevan Lullaby touches my heart (named after my sister Sandra and me)… – Eva Rodriguez, 1997
Rehearsed for the 1998 SA tour, but not performed (I know ‘coz I was there!) – Brian Currin, 1998
Rich Folks Hoax
Great song, what more can I say – listen to the words.
Craig Bartholomew told me that in 1987 when he was busking his way around Spain, this song received the best response, and the most money into his open guitar case!
Not written by Rodriguez, but sure sounds like it could have been. “Hate Street Dialogue” actually refers to the famous “Haight/Ashbury” area of San Francisco, the famous Hippie hang-out during the late 60s “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 South African 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
Could this be “Janis Pity” – a sort of tribute to Janis Joplin? Read the lyrics and see the similarity to Janis and her lifestyle. Lyrics like “now you sit there thinking, feeling insecure…” and “…don’t bother to buy insurance, coz you’ve already died…”. Great imagery and biting prose. Read more about this song and ‘Like Janis’.
To Whom It May Concern (1979 live version)
A wonderful, almost progressive rock version with jazz-blues flute and even a bass solo. Recorded in Australia in 1979. This track is over 8 minutes long and the band is introduced on this song. Really great version.
Heikki’s Suburbia Bus Tour
After a conversation with my father, I wanted to share a short story…
In the sixties, there were these people called hippies. It can be said that a long hair, dark skin, free thinking musician, like Rodriguez could have been labelled one. In my youth, I recall hearing about how the “rich folks” (those living in the suburbs), would come down to the inner city of Detroit to actually see these “oddities” in their natural environment. Maybe even take a picture or two. This happened to be my neighborhood and some of my people.
Rodriguez had a very good friend named Heikki. I remember a large man with long blond/brown hair. He had a very nice home, a wife named Linda and two huge bull mastiff dogs. Despite stereotypes, Heikki was a mathematician from “Estonia” (Estonia is a republic in North-Eastern Europe, near Finland) who rode a classic motorcycle. In fact, one of the places that Rodriguez played, a “motorcycle funeral”, was for one of Heikki’s friends. The motorcycle club was called “The Penetrators”.
Anyway, someone had made fun of Rodriguez’s friend. Protective of Heikki’s feelings, Rodriguez organized what I consider to be a peaceful form of retaliation. A bus was chartered, full of hippies, four gallons of wine, etc. The group went to Grosse Point, Michigan and surrounding areas where they visited suburbian malls and neighborhoods on a tour of their own. The rest, is in the music. The story made the newspapers in Detroit and also reached Florida (a southern U.S. state). – Eva Rodriguez, 1997
A Most Disgusting Song
In “A Most Disgusting Song” the people are like someone we all know. I think it was a depiction of a place Rodriguez played, a bar called “The Sewer” near the Detroit River, that was demolished a long time ago (In the song “Cause” Rodriguez speaks to Jesus (his brother?) at the Sewer). One of the places that Rodriguez played, a “motorcycle funeral”, was for one of Heikki’s friends. The motorcycle club was called “The Penetrators”. – Eva Rodriguez, 1997
The 1967 version of I’ll Slip Away was released on The Best Of Impact Records CD (Collectables COL-5883) in November 1997. Also released as a bonus track on Sugar Man: The Best Of Rodriguez (South Africa) in September 2005.
The 1967 single features more upfront Byrds-type jangly guitar, vocal harmonies and a subdued organ in the background, when compared to the early 70’s version. The strings that are so prominent on the later version are absent on the 1967 version.
I’ll Slip Away: As far as the Rodriguez Impact single, “I’ll Slip Away” is concerned, I would highly suspect that both sides of that single were probably recorded at Terra Shirma Studios, since most of all of the later Impact records were recorded there. But it is possible that it may have been recorded at United Sound Studios in Detroit, since Harry Balk recorded many of his artists there as well.
The “B” side of the Impact 45, “I’ll Slip Away” is a song titled, “You’d Like To Admit It”. Both sides were produced by Harry Balk (the owner of Impact). To my knowledge, the record was only issued as a “promotional” 45, and not sold commercially to the public (see note below). The record is “near-impossible” to find, due to the fact that few copies were pressed, and Impact records went out of business shortly after the record was released. By the way, the song, “You’d Like To Admit It” was also written by Rodriguez.
I’m afraid that I can’t help you out with the lyrics to the song (read them here),”You’d Like To Admit It”, because I don’t own a copy of the single. In my many years of collecting records, I have only seen ONE copy of that record for sale, and it was much too expensive for me to buy. (IT WAS ABOUT $175.00 U.S. DOLLARS!)…
— Jerry Schollenberger, “Best of Impact Records” CD producer, May 1999
I can confirm that a regular (NOT a promo) release of Impact #1031 does exist. A speculation to the contrary exists on your Sixto R. page. Thanx for the info on this artist that you supplied; you have added to my enjoyment of record collecting, and listening.
— Steve Jones, Canada, August 2003
I’LL SLIP AWAY
And I’ll forget about the girl that said no Then I’ll tell who I want where to go And I’ll forget about your lies and deceit And your attempts to be so discreet
Maybe today, yeah I’ll slip away
And you can keep your symbols of success Then I’ll pursue my own happiness And you can keep your clocks and routines Then I’ll go mend all my shattered dreams
Maybe today, yeah I’ll slip away
Cause you’ve been down on me for too long And for too long I just put you on Now I’m tired of lying and I’m sick of trying Cause I’m losing who I really am And I’m not choosing to be like them
And if you get bored or got loneliness Or it’s dislike for me you express I won’t care if you’re right or you’re wrong I won’t care cause you see I’ll be gone
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.
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.