Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Sixto" Rodriquez - Happy Birthday

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez is a largely unknown American musician, singer-songwriter who was born in Detroit, Michigan on July 10, 1942. Today is his 70th birthday. His family named him 'Sixto' because he was the sixth child born to his parents, who settled in Detroit, after leaving Mexico in the 1920s. His full name is Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, and you’re about to hear a lot about him in an upcoming film about his life; and for good reason. His story is one of many when it comes to music. It is also proof that sometimes success takes time. In the case of Rodriguez, not only was that time too long in coming, but it almost didn’t happen at all. And the curious part of it is that while we in the United States were virtually ignorant of this talented and charismatic musician, he was a huge hit in places such as Australia and South Africa. Even the clubs in Europe were aware of his unique talent. It’s almost like the 1950’s again, when America didn’t quite embrace some of her own rhythm and blues artists until they were played back to us by the British. And, it begs the question, “Why?”

Mr. Rodriguez’ first album, “Cold Fact”, was recorded in America in 1969, and released in 1970; it went nowhere. The same thing happened with his second album, “Coming from Reality”, which was released in 1971. But by the late 1970’s the albums had spread by word of mouth to Australia, and then on to South Africa, where he was selling out concerts, and millions of albums. Meantime, back in Detroit, Mr. Rodriguez' career was in limbo; he wasn’t even receiving any of the royalties due him from his work. His record company didn’t even believe him when he told them of the sold out concerts overseas.
Finally, in 2006, film-maker Malik Bendjelloul came upon the Rodriguez story while looking to make a 7 minute documentary film in Cape Town, South Africa for Swedish Television. While pursuing that endeavor, he kept hearing the name, and music, of Sixto Rodriguez. Now he was hooked. There was a story to be unearthed and told.  This was not the first attempt to locate the elusive Mr. Rodriguez, who had been living in Detroit, working at various construction jobs; and later, even running for City Council, as well as Mayor; while half a world away he was bigger than the Rolling Stones.
Ten years previous, two of his biggest fans, Cape Town record store owner Steve Segerman, and music journalist Craig Bartholomew, began to wonder what ever happened to Rodriguez – and how he had presumably died. Then they began to wonder; if Rodriguez was dead, then where were all the royalties going from his hit albums? Setting out for America, they met with the co-producer of the “Cold Fact” album, Mike Theodore. That was when they found out that not only was Rodriguez alive and well, but still living in the same run down house in Detroit! He had been working all those years in construction, while raising  3 daughters.
Life works in very mysterious ways; and Sixto Rodriguez is a perfect example of that. He is now the subject of a soon to be released movie, “Searching for Sugarman.” Here he is with the movies director Malik Bendjelloul last month at the House of Blues in Hollywood. It’s due out shortly, and I am already itching to see it. Meantime, hit You Tube for a look at this very talented, and patient, musician. His life highlights the fact that sometimes it just takes time.

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