Sixto Rodriguez (also known as Rodriguez or Jesus Rodriguez) is an American folk musician from Detroit, Michigan. His career was initially short lived with two albums in the early ’70’s and two Australian concert tours. His music never took off in the US, although he retained a loyal following in Australia. Unknown to him, his work became very popular in South Africa, even though little was known about the musician at the time and it was mistakenly rumoured that he had committed suicide during a concert in the 1970’s. Both of his albums were released on CD in 1991 and in 1998 his song “Sugar Man” was covered by Just Jinger, a South African rock band.
In 2012 we saw the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” which was aired on South African television. The documentary is about two South Africans (from Cape Town), who set out in the late 1990’s to discover what happened to Rodriguez and whether or not the rumour about his death was true.
These determined fans did manage to find him, still living in the same derelict house that he bought in the 1970’s after quitting his music career, and the documentary has led to a revival of his music career.
This month we got to see this legend in person. It was quite something to see the 72-year old man shuffle out onto the stage (assisted by a crew member) dressed in a suit and top hat but once he picked up his guitar and began playing and singing, his age seemed to disappear!
He is still an astounding musician and such a humble man. I say humble because whenever the crowd applauded and cheered for him at the end of a song, he’d turn around (with his back to the crowd), take off his top hat and point it towards one of his band members, almost like he was directing the applause at them instead of it being for him!
Watching him perform was both amazing and inspiring. His body may have aged but his mind still seems to be as sharp as ever. His fingers flew swiftly and nimbly over the guitar strings and his voice was clear and strong. There were even times during the concert where he had the crowd laughing at his witty comebacks to (drunken) comments shouted at him between songs!
When the concert ended and he shuffled off stage (assisted once more), we thought that there was no way that they would make him come out for an encore. But lo and behold, out he came and happily played two more songs for us.
It’s really hard to imagine someone doing a world tour in their 70’s! Surely all the traveling must be exhausting. He did two concerts in New Zealand: Auckland on 13th Oct and Wellington on 15th Oct, before heading across to Australia to do 14 concerts between 17th Oct and 15th Nov (one concert every alternate night)! He’s then heading over to the UK in May 2015.
What an amazing man!
If you haven’t yet seen the documentary, try and make a plan to see it. Click on this link to watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL5TffdOQ7g