Jesus Sixto Diaz-Rodriguez (July 10, 1942 – August 8, 2023), better known as Rodriguez or Sixth Prince, was an American musician from Detroit, Michigan. His name was pronounced as "Seez-too".[1]

Sixto Rodriguez
Rodriguez in 2007
Rodriguez in 2007
Background information
Birth nameJesus Sixto Diaz
Also known as
  • Rod Riguez
  • Sixth Prince
  • Jesús Rodríguez
Born(1942-07-10)July 10, 1942
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedAugust 8, 2023(2023-08-08) (aged 81)
  • Musician
  • singer
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1967–1973

Though his career was initially met with little fanfare in the United States, he found success in South Africa, Australia (touring the country twice in his earlier career), and New Zealand. Unbeknownst to him for decades, his music was extremely successful and influential in South Africa, where he is believed to have sold more records than Elvis Presley,[2][3] as well as other countries in southern Africa. Information about him was scarce, and it was incorrectly rumored there that he had died by suicide shortly after releasing his second album.[4]

In the 1990s, determined South African fans managed to find and contact Rodriguez, which led to an unexpected revival of his musical career. This was told in the 2012 Academy Award-winning documentary film Searching for Sugar Man and helped give Rodriguez a measure of fame in his home country. In May 2013, Rodriguez received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from his alma mater, Wayne State University, in Detroit.

Rodriguez lived in Detroit's historic Woodbridge neighborhood, through which he is seen walking in Searching for Sugar Man. He lived a simple life, possessing no telephone, and occasionally visited bars in the Cass Corridor section of Detroit near Woodbridge and Midtown, such as the Old Miami pub, where he performed live concerts for small local crowds.

Biography Edit

Early life Edit

Sixto Rodriguez at Way Out West in Gothenburg, Sweden, 2013

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez was born on July 10, 1942, in Detroit, Michigan. He was the sixth child of Mexican immigrant working-class parents. His mother died when he was three years old.[1] They had joined a large influx of Mexicans who came to the Midwest to work in Detroit's industries.[5] Mexican immigrants at that time faced both intense alienation and marginalization.[6][7] In most of his songs, Rodriguez takes a political stance on the difficulties that faced the inner-city poor.

Recording career Edit

In 1967, using the name "Rod Riguez" (given by his record label), he released a single, "I'll Slip Away", on the small Impact label. He did not record again for three years, until he signed with Sussex Records, an offshoot of Buddah Records. He used his preferred professional name, "Rodriguez", after that. He recorded two albums with Sussex, Cold Fact in 1970 and Coming from Reality in November 1971. However, both sold few copies in the U.S. and he was dropped by Sussex two weeks before Christmas 1971, and Sussex itself closed in 1975.[8] While 'Searching for Sugar Man' implies he was in the process of recording a third album, when Sussex dropped him, In 2013 Rodriguez told Rolling Stone magazine that he unsuccessfully lobbied filmmakers to cut a reference to his "unfinished third album." He told them, "To me it distracted," he said. "It almost cheapened the film, like it was a promo film... I’ve written about 30 songs, and that’s pretty much what the public has heard."[9]

Rodriguez quit his music career and in 1976 he purchased a derelict Detroit house in a government auction for $50 (US$257 in 2022 dollars[10]) in which he still lived as of 2013.[11] He worked in demolition and production line work, always earning a low income. He remained politically active and motivated to improve the lives of the city's working-class inhabitants and had run unsuccessfully several times for public office: for the Detroit City Council in 1989, for Mayor of Detroit in 1981 and 1993 and for the Michigan House of Representatives in 2000.[12]

In 2013, it was announced that Rodriguez was in discussions with Steve Rowland, the producer of his Coming From Reality album. "I've written about thirty new songs," Rodriguez told Rolling Stone magazine. "He told me to send him a couple of tapes, so I'm gonna do that. I certainly want to look him up, because now he's full of ideas."[13]

International fame Edit

Although Rodriguez remained relatively unknown in his home country, by the mid-1970s his albums were starting to gain significant airplay in Australia, Botswana, New Zealand, Rhodesia and South Africa.[14][15]

When imported copies of his Sussex albums were sold out, an Australian record label, Blue Goose Music, bought the Australian rights to his recordings. Blue Goose released his two studio albums as well as a compilation album, At His Best, that featured unreleased recordings from 1973 – "Can't Get Away", "I'll Slip Away" (a re-recording of his first single), and "Street Boy".[16]

At His Best went platinum in South Africa, which at one stage was the major disc-press source of his music to the rest of the world. Rodriguez was compared to contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens. Many of his songs carry anti-establishment themes, and therefore boosted anti-apartheid protest culture in South Africa[17] where his work influenced the music scene at the time and was also a considerable influence on a generation drafted, mostly unwillingly, to the then whites-only South African military. Reportedly, anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko was also a Rodriguez fan.[18]

Rodriguez was also successful in Australia and performed two concert tours across the country in 1979 and 1981.[19]

In 1991, both of his albums were released on CD in South Africa for the first time, which helped preserve his fame. However, few details of his life were known to his fans and it was rumored that he had killed himself during a concert in the 1970s.[20]

Despite his success abroad, Rodriguez's fame in South Africa had remained unknown to him until 1997 when his eldest daughter, Eva, came across a website dedicated to him.[21] After contacting the website and learning of his fame in the country, Rodriguez went on his first South African tour, playing six concerts before thousands of fans. A documentary, Dead Men Don't Tour: Rodriguez in South Africa 1998, was screened on SABC TV in 2001. He also performed in Sweden before returning to South Africa in 2001 and 2005.[22]

Sixto Rodriguez at Manchester Academy, December 2, 2012

In 1998, Rodriguez's signature song, "Sugar Man", was covered by the South African rock band Just Jinger and the Scottish singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini. In 2002, it was used by disc-jockey David Holmes to open his mix album, Come Get It I Got It, gaining Rodriguez more international airplay. "Sugar Man" had previously gained even more fame by having been sampled in the song "You're Da Man" in rapper Nas's 2001 album Stillmatic.[23]

In April 2007 and 2010, he returned to Australia to play at the East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival,[24] as well as sell out shows in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. His song "Sugar Man" was featured in the 2006 film Candy, starring Heath Ledger.[25] Singer-songwriter Ruarri Joseph covered Rodriguez's song "Rich Folks Hoax" for his third studio album.[26] Irish singer-songwriter Darragh O'Dea mentions Rodriguez and references "Inner City Blues" in his 2020 single "Lost Dog Loyal".[citation needed] Rodriguez continued to tour in various countries in later life.[citation needed]

Rodriguez's albums Cold Fact and Coming from Reality were re-released by Light in the Attic Records in 2009.[27]

In 2014, the French deep house and electro music producer The Avener released a new version of "Hate Street Dialogue" originally appearing on Rodriguez's album Cold Fact. The version by The Avener features Rodriguez's vocals. The release charted in France.[28]

Searching for Sugar Man Edit

In 2012, the Sundance Film Festival hosted the premiere of the documentary film Searching for Sugar Man, by Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul, detailing the efforts of two South African fans to see if his rumored death was true and, if not, to discover what had become of him. The documentary, produced by Simon Chinn and John Battsek, went on to win the World Cinema Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award, World Cinema Documentary.[29]

In addition to playing at other film festivals including the True/False Film Festival and the Traverse City Film Festival, the film opened in New York and Los Angeles on July 27, 2012, before a larger domestic cinematic run.[30] It was also screened as part of cinema programs in some European music festivals during the summer of 2012, including the Way Out West festival in August, where Rodriguez also performed. In November it won both the Audience Award and the Best Music Documentary Award at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.[31]

The Searching for Sugar Man soundtrack features a compilation of Rodriguez tracks from his albums Cold Fact and Coming from Reality, in addition to three previously unreleased songs from his third unfinished album. The album was released on July 24, 2012.[32] To allay possible concerns raised in the film about how Rodriguez was apparently cheated by his previous record label, the back cover bears the statement, "Rodriguez receives royalties from the sale of this release."[33]

Searching for Sugar Man won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary on February 10, 2013.[citation needed]

On January 13, 2013, Searching for Sugar Man was nominated for and, on February 24, 2013, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards.[34] Rodriguez declined to attend the award ceremony as he did not want to overshadow the filmmakers' achievement.[35] Upon accepting his award, Chinn remarked on such generosity, "That just about says everything about that man and his story that you want to know."[36] Malik Bendjelloul also said on stage, "Thanks to one of the greatest singers ever, Rodriguez."[37]

Belated success in the United States Edit

After the cinematic release of Searching for Sugar Man in 2012, Rodriguez experienced a flush of media exposure and fan interest in the United States, as well as Europe. He appeared as a musical guest on the Late Show with David Letterman on August 14, 2012, performing "Crucify Your Mind",[citation needed] and performed "Can't Get Away" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on January 11, 2013.[citation needed]

Prominent news coverage included a mid-August 2012 CNN feature story with an interview of Rodriguez discussing his life and career resurgence. On October 7, 2012, Rodriguez was featured on the U.S. television news program 60 Minutes.[38] On November 18, 2012, Rodriguez was interviewed on the U.K. Sunday morning news program The Andrew Marr Show, where he also played a short song over the closing credits. He performed on the BBC2 program Later... with Jools Holland[39] on November 16, 2012, and was interviewed by Holland.[citation needed] Additionally, he performed on Internet web series shows such as The Weekly Comet.[citation needed]

In addition to concerts in Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand,[40] Rodriguez's tour schedule for 2013 included his most highly attended U.S. concerts to date, such as a stint at the Beacon Theatre in New York City in April and a spot at the 2014 Sasquatch Music Festival at The Gorge Amphitheatre, as well as other concerts in Europe.[citation needed] He played on the Park Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, U.K., in June 2013. On July 5, 2013, Rodriguez opened the Montreux Jazz festival.[citation needed] On August 10, 2013, he headlined at the Wilderness Festival in the U.K. In 2015, he opened for Brian Wilson's tour with Wilson, Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin of the Beach Boys.[41]

Rodriguez received additional marketing in 2014 as the Dave Matthews Band often covered "Sugar Man" in their summer tour.[42] Matthews would often preface the song with his experience as a fan of Rodriguez growing up in South Africa and his surprise at Rodriguez's lack of popularity in the United States.[43]

The film Searching for Sugar Man strongly implied that Rodriguez had been cheated out of royalties over the years, specifically by Clarence Avant. Rodriguez first expressed indifference to these "symbols of success" but then filed a lawsuit in 2013.[44] In 2022, the year before his death, the lawsuit was reported to have been settled with no amount disclosed.[45][46]

Later activity Edit

In 2015, Craig Bartholomew Strydom and Stephen "Sugar" Segerman published a book entitled Sugar Man: The Life, Death and Resurrection of Sixto Rodriguez.[47] A review in Business Day called the book "probably one of the most unusual rock 'n roll stories out there".[citation needed]

Rodriguez toured the United States and Canada as recently as 2018. He headlined a tour in August 2018,[48] ending with a hometown show at Detroit's Garden Theater.[citation needed][49]

Rodriguez and the process of his rediscovery was the subject of a 2022 episode of Outlook on the BBC World Service.[50]

Death Edit

Rodriguez died on August 8, 2023, at the age of 81, after having suffered a stroke in February 2023.[48][51][52][53]

He was married and had three daughters.[53]

Discography Edit

Rodriguez performing in Zürich, 24 March 2014
Performing with his backup band at The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, 8 April 2007. From left to right: Jim Kelly, Greg Lyon, and Rodriguez

Albums Edit

Studio albums
Live albums
  • 1981: Rodriguez Alive, Blue Goose Music[54](Australia)
  • 1998: Live Fact, Columbia[54](South Africa)
  • 2016: Rodriguez Rocks: Live In Australia, Inertia[54](Australia)[55]

Album reissues Edit

Year Title Peak positions Certification

2012 Searching for Sugar Man 76 17 28 2 28 32 9 1 22 26
Cold Fact 78 11 50 4 81 54 20 10 20 39
Coming from Reality 161 25 109 12 135 91 16 73

Singles Edit

Year Song title B-side Notes
1967 "I'll Slip Away" "You'd Like to Admit It" Credited as Rod Riguez
1970 "Inner City Blues" "Forget It"
"To Whom It May Concern" "I Think of You"
1972 "Sugar Man" "Inner City Blues" Released in Australia
1978 "Climb Up on My Music"
2002 "Sugar Man" "Tom Cat" (by Muddy Waters)

Singles featured in

Year Album Peak positions
2014 "Hate Street Dialogue"
(The Avener featuring Rodriguez)

"Sugar Man" is also included in the 2006 Australian film Candy.[70]

References Edit

  1. ^ a b "Rodriguez". July 10, 1942. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  2. ^ Malitz, David (July 26, 2012). "'Searching for Sugar Man' documentary rediscovers musician Sixto Rodriguez". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  3. ^ Bendjelloul, Malik, director. Searching for Sugar Man. StudioCanal, 2012.
  4. ^ Petridis, Alexis (October 6, 2005). "The singer who came back from the dead". The Guardian. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  5. ^ Vargas, Zaragosa. Proletarians of the North: A History of Mexican Industrial Workers in Detroit, 1917–1933. University of California Press, 1999.
  6. ^ Vargas, Zaragosa.
  7. ^ Balderrama, Francisco. A Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s. Albuquerque, NM.: University of New Mexico Press, 2006.
  8. ^ Macamba (August 16, 2023). "Rodriguez". Rock and Roll Paradise. Rock and Roll Paradise. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  9. ^ Flanary, Patrick (January 29, 2013). "Rodriguez Weighs Potential Third Album". Rolling Stone. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  10. ^ 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved May 28, 2023.
  11. ^ "Wife of Oscar-nominated 'Searching for Sugar Man' star Rodriguez says he'll stay in $50 Detroit home -". February 2, 2013.
  12. ^ "Rodriguez, Sixto". Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  13. ^ Michaels, Sean (January 30, 2013). "Rodriguez set to return to studio after 42-year absence". The Guardian. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  14. ^ "Tour news: Sugar Man on his way". The New Zealand Herald. New Zealand Media and Entertainment. January 20, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2023.
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  16. ^ "Rodriguez – at His Best". Discogs. August 12, 1977.
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  28. ^ Hung, Steffen. " – The Avener feat. Rodriguez – Hate Street Dialogue".
  29. ^ Yuan, Jada (January 21, 2012). "Sundance: The Electrifying Search For Sugar Man". New York. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  30. ^ "Searching for Sugar Man || A Sony Pictures Classics Release". Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  31. ^ "Winners of the IDFA 2012 Awards announced". Amsterdam, Netherlands: International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Archived from the original on January 29, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
  32. ^ "Searching for Sugar Man Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Brings Rodriguez's 1970s Music to a New Generation". Legacy Recordings. May 4, 2012. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013.
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  34. ^ McCollum, Brian (January 10, 2013). "Sixto Rodriguez rides the wave of 'Searching for Sugar Man' success". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
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  36. ^ Reuters, Sapa-AFP. "Sugar Man takes Oscar". DailyNews. Archived from the original on February 8, 2015. Retrieved February 25, 2013. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  37. ^ Germain, David (February 25, 2013). "Oscars 2013: 'Argo' Takes Home Best Picture at 85th Academy Awards". Moviefone. Archived from the original on April 11, 2013. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
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  39. ^ Holland, Jools. "Rodriguez chats to Jools Holland". BBC.
  40. ^ "Sugar Man Rodriquez to play Wellington". Stuff. January 16, 2013.
  41. ^ Kokoulin, Ivan (December 14, 2015). "Jesus Sixto Rodriguez performance at Kalamazoo State Theater". Medium. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  42. ^ "Dave Matthews Band 2014 Summer Tour: Sugar Man Stats".
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  44. ^ "Rodriguez Seeks Lost Royalties From Albums Sold Overseas While He Lived In Obscurity". HuffPost. March 5, 2016. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
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  48. ^ a b Scarlett O'Toole: Legendary Sugar Man singer Sixto Rodriguez dies after suffering a stroke,, 9 August 2023
  49. ^ "Rodriguez "Sixteen Tons" LIVE @ The Garden Theater, Detroit 8-31-2018".
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  53. ^ a b Mary Milliken (August 9, 2023). "United States: 'Searching for Sugar Man' singer Sixto Rodriguez dead at 81". Retrieved September 5, 2023.
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External links Edit