The Curious Case of Sixto Rodriguez

May 13th, 2009

You may have never heard of Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, who records music under the name Rodriguez, and that’s OK. He hasn’t really been a part of our national conscience in a long, long time. But that is slowly changing. The Detroit native’s first album, Cold Fact—released in 1970—touched on late-’60s themes of drugs, love, rebellion, war and police brutality. While the album was somewhat of a gem, it floundered on the charts. His follow-up, Coming from Reality, did even worse.

Rodriguez continued to hone his craft, but he also studied for a philosophy degree, became a teacher and ran for multiple political offices. “I ran for city council, I ran for mayor, I ran for state representative. I’ve also run for my life,” he has said. But somewhere along the way, something interesting happened. His albums found an interested audience in apartheid-era South Africa. “They were dealing with the same stuff we were: Why are the powers that be keeping us down?”

The Internet and that ardent South African following led to Cold Fact’s 2008 re-release. First Rodriguez toured South Africa, and to his surprise, his shows were filled with young people, giving his music new blood. And now, at the age of 67, the singer-songwriter is in the midst of his first-ever U.S. tour. Make sure you find out what all the fuss is about by watching this video of the wonderful “Sugar Man” and then see Rodriguez this Friday at The Bowery Ballroom because sometimes good things come to those who wait. —R. Zizmor