Practically overlooked, an artist who left his mark on the 70s with a few hits including “Sugar Man” and two albums, has passed away on August eighth, for reasons unknown. Despite his albums being far more captivating than those of some stars in the same genre from that era, he did not achieve the success he deserved. It was just before the 80s that this protest singer, after gaining popularity in South Africa, managed to spread his music extensively, leading to recognition even in Europe.
In the early 80s, the song “Sugar Man” was playing on airwaves across France, Belgium, Germany, England, Italy, and Spain. Sometimes, it was played more than twenty times a day on radio stations. Sixto Rodriguez, who had always led a modest life doing odd jobs to support his family while juggling his music career, suddenly found himself becoming a star in Europe. However, he faced censorship in Australia due to his lyrics about social rights and sexual liberation, which did not sit well with the white and ultra-racist youth of South Africa.
In 1998, his career was revitalized thanks to two South African fans (with South Africa finally liberated from the ultra-racist white dictatorship), who rediscovered him on the Internet and organized tours. The documentary “Sugar Man” tells their story.
Sixto Rodriguez was indeed a unique character, a hero from a time when everything was hazy, and where, without an inflated ego, someone like Sixto could remain forever in the shadows. It’s almost certain that now that Sixto Rodriguez has passed away, we will see the release of one or more posthumous albums. Perhaps some filmmakers will feel the desire and need to tell his story – the story of an ordinary man with extraordinary talent. What should truly be remembered about him are his lyrics and his principles, as he is one of the few artists from that era who never compromised. The unusual fate of Sixto Rodriguez, known simply as ‘Rodriguez,’ is a prime example of earning respect and recognition.
On Bayou Blue Radio, as you know, we primarily focus on jazz music. However, as a tribute to Sixto Rodriguez, we will play the song “Sugar Man,” ensuring that we never forget this individual who left an indelible mark on many of us.
Thierry de Clemensat
Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News – Paris-Move
who’d had it on vinyl since the late 1970s.
During a difficult separation in 2013, I stayed with Z and his wife, J, and we listened to it over and over again, while drinking whiskey and venting about a million things in their apartment in a rather frightening Montpellier neighborhood.
It’s a very subjective opinion, but I think that Cold Fact has to be ranked as one of the best break-up albums in the history of rock ’n’ roll. It’s clear that Sixto went through some relationship-related trauma, and the way he questions the world throughout the rest of the album is typical of anyone in the middle of an existential crisis.
I got my own copy of Cold Fact and played it non-stop in my car. I was working on lyrics for Olivier Blackstone’s album Icarus at the time, as well as playing first versions of the songs that would end up on my own album, Reasons, and I am convinced that Rodriguez’s straight-shooting honesty had a strong influence my writing style.
Another very inspiring aspect of this album is its backstory. Albums are like children that grow up and lead lives of their own. While Cold Fact was initially chalked up as a failure by Rodriguez’s record company, the album is anything but… the proof is, it has made its way around the world and into our hearts as if by its own volition. I am seeing the same thing happening with Reasons, albeit on a smaller scale (for now), years after its early pandemic release. Artists like Sixto Rodriguez give us all hope that our efforts and work are not for naught.
So RIP, Sixto, and thank you for always staying you.
Singer-Songwritwer – Bayou Blue Radio CEO