Detroit troubadour was the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man
Sixto Rodriguez, the Detroit-born singer-songwriter who was the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, has died at the age of 81.
“It is with great sadness that we at Sugarman.org announce that Sixto Diaz Rodriguez has passed away earlier today,” read the statement on the artist’s official website. “We extend our most heartfelt condolences to his daughters – Sandra, Eva and Regan – and to all his family.”
Rodriguez, the child of Mexican immigrant parents, recorded two acclaimed albums, 1970’s Cold Fact and 1971’s Coming From Reality, featuring music existing at the four corner intersection of folk, soul, funk and acid rock. After both albums sold poorly, he wound up leaving the music industry, focusing rather on blue collar work in demolition and auto production. He was also very active politically, running several times for public office, including losing bids for the Detroit City Council in 1989, for Mayor of Detroit in 1981 and 1993 and for the Michigan House of Representatives in 2000.
Meanwhile, during his dormancy, Rodriguez’s music had found a big following in such countries as South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. His popularity overseas, where he’d see his songs transform into anti-apartheid protest hymns inside the sowetos of Johannesburg, transformed him into a global star almost overnight. With premature rumors of his death prevalent, Sixto emerged from retirement to embark on a successful tour of South Africa in 1998.
He would eventually find success here in the States when Seattle archival imprint Light in the Attic re-released both Cold Fact and Coming From Reality in 2008 and 2009. Searching for Sugar Man, meanwhile, was a genuine labor of love for its director, Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, who quit his job and financed production himself in order to get the doc made. Bendjelloul would pass away in 2014 by suicide a year after winning the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
Beneath the announcement of Rodriguez’s death on the official Sugarman website are the words “Maybe today, I’ll slip away…,” lyrics taken from a bonus track featured on the 2009 edition of Coming to Reality called “I’ll Slip Away.” While his physical vessel might be gone, chances are slim the memory of this beloved cult hero will ever be forgotten.
VIDEO: Searching For Sugar Man official trailer
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