19 years ago one of the most fantastic stories in rock and roll unfolded. An amazing artist who had faded Into obscurity 25 years earlier was reborn, live on stage, in front of thousands of adoring fans.
His name is Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, and his story is documented in the film Searching for Sugar Man.
The Cliff Notes is this: unbelievably talented singer-songwriter (in my eyes a mix of Bob Dylan, Jose Feliciano, and Batman) gets picked up out of a Detroit dive bar by a heavy hitter record producer to make an album. The album bowls everybody over critically, but fails to chart commercially.
The artist fades into obscurity.
Meanwhile, an American coed transports this obscure album to apartheid South Africa. The album is shared amongst friends and many bootleg tapes are produced. This bootleg becomes a phenomenon and is picked up by several reputable record companies that service South Africa and is mass-produced, selling hundreds of thousands of copies to this small and oppressed Nation.
Rumors abound that the obscure artist went out in some blaze of glory; self-immolation, blowing his brains out, massive drug overdose… all while on stage in front of uncaring and undeserving audience members.
Some years later, and after apartheid has disintegrated, fans and local journalists seek the truth. Following obscure lyrical references and vague Cold Fact, they stumble upon the truth: Rodriguez is alive and kicking!
He dropped out of the music business because reality is a strong motivator. He raised three daughters while working at construction and demolition, hard labor.
Informed by the investigators of his cult like status in South Africa, he is convinced to perform several live concerts in that country for his long adoring fans.
Those concerts held in early March 1998.
If you own a copy of Rodriguez – Cold Fact, it is a rare bird and worth several hundred dollars. If you don’t own it, it has been re-released and can be had for a $20 bill. You should all go out and buy this interesting record and watch the documentary Searching for Sugar Man that tells the story in depth.