Rodriguez: Forget Big in Japan, he was Big in SA

Rodriguez: Forget Big in Japan, he was Big in SA!

One of my favourite songs on the East Coast Gold playlist is Sugar Man by Rodriguez. Ah, what a song! It brings back so many memories and is probably one of my all-time best tracks.

Rodriguez performing
It got me thinking about Sixto Diaz Rodriguez and his almost tragic career that was way shorter than his talent and skill demanded.

Born in 1942 in Detroit Michigan, this man and his guitar produced quite a number of hit songs but in the USA his career was short lived, and he went into obscurity far quicker than he deserved.

In South Africa it was an entirely different situation for Sixto (without him realising) his music became extremely successful and influential.  They are believed to have sold more records in SA than Elvis Presley which is practically unheard of.

Because of poor and scarce information about Rodriguez, it was incorrectly rumoured that he had committed suicide shortly after releasing his first album.

In the 1990’s determined South African Fans managed to find and contact Rodriguez which lead to a tour that surprised even the Sugar Man himself.  He had been living in the historic Woodbridge area in Detroit living the simple life possessing no telephone or cell and no car and his only musical outlet was playing small concerts for local crowds in the Cass Corridor district.

The 2012 Academy Award winning documentary called ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ tells this story far better than I could in a few paragraphs and I highly recommend seeing it. 

Below, here Rodriguez is performing in South Africa in 1998.

Listen to Sugar Man below.

In 2013 Sixto Rodriguez was awarded an Honory Doctorate from his Alma Mater, Wayne State University.

In 2016, he returned to South Africa for another successful tour.

More recently in June 2018, Rodriguez performed at the Best Kept Secret Festival at Beekse Bergen, Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands.Watch that performance below.

Finally, here’s Rodriguez singing The Establishment Blues at the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island (2012).

What's your favourite Rodriguez track? Email me the details.

*** East Coast Gold is a digital radio station that plays hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Listen to East Coast Gold via the ECR app or here.

Show's Stories