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Home » Singer Sixto Rodriguez, Searching for Sugarman, Dies at 81

Singer Sixto Rodriguez, Searching for Sugarman, Dies at 81

Singer Sixto Rodriguez Dies at 81
Singer Sixto Rodriguez dies at the age of 81. Credit: B0rder / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Singer-songwriter Rodriguez, known for his extraordinary and almost unbelievable journey chronicled in the Oscar-winning documentary “Searching For Sugar Man,” has passed away at the age of 81. The sad news of his death was shared on his official website.

“It is with great sadness that we at announce that Sixto Diaz Rodriguez has passed away earlier today,” the official statement read. “We extend our most heartfelt condolences to his daughters – Sandra, Eva and Regan – and to all his family. Rodriguez was 81 years old. May His Dear Soul Rest In Peace.”

Sixto Rodriguez, known by his last name, was born in Detroit. He balanced his time between working on a Chrysler assembly line and performing in local clubs around the city.

His musical talents caught the eye of producers Mike Theodore and Dennis Coffey, the latter being a respected local guitarist. Together, they collaborated on Rodriguez’s first album titled “Cold Fact,” which was released in 1970 under the independent Los Angeles label Sussex Records.

Rodriguez’s albums flopped in US

During the 1970s, his albums didn’t find success in the United States. Little did he know he would eventually rise to stardom in South Africa.

His songs, which spoke out against the Vietnam War, racial injustice, mistreatment of women, and societal norms, served as inspiration for white liberals who were appalled by the harsh racial segregation of apartheid in the country.

The documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” directed by Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, introduced Rodriguez to a significantly broader audience. This film follows the journey of two South Africans as they endeavor to uncover the destiny of their musical idol.

The documentary achieved recognition by winning the 2013 Academy Award for Best Documentary. However, the enigmatic Rodriguez chose not to attend the ceremony.

During a backstage interview, producer Simon Chinn offered insight into the reason behind this decision.

“He genuinely doesn’t want to take the credit for this film….He’s genuinely a humble man,” Chinn said.

Rodriguez was ‘more popular than Elvis’

In 2013, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, who owns a record store in Cape Town, remarked that in South Africa, Rodriguez had surpassed the popularity of even Elvis Presley. The moniker “Sugar” in Segerman’s name is derived from the Rodriguez track “Sugarman.”

Even as his fame flourished in South Africa, Rodriguez remained a resident of Detroit. Yet, his admirers in South Africa were convinced that he had achieved a similar level of prominence in the United States.

Later on, Rodriguez took steps to claim the royalties that had not been rightfully given to him for the usage and airing of his music in South Africa.

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