Tonight at House of Blues, the enigmatic Rodriguez takes the stage. The Detroit folk musician, also known as Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, released two albums to little acclaim in the late '60s and early '70s, and quickly faded into obscurity. Meanwhile, half a world away, those albums -- Cold Fact and Coming From Reality -- gathered fans in South Africa, where a community found inspiration in his protest lyrics.
With that popularity, Rodriguez was considered controversial enough that the South African government censored parts of Cold Fact. His albums were bootlegged countless times, and sold with abandon. Back in America, Rodriguez disappeared into a quiet life in his native Detroit.
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There were more than a few reports about his untimely death, so a group of fans attempted to track down Rodriguez in the late '90s. The details of this search and Rodriguez's subsequent return to touring are captured in the film Searching for Sugar Man.
Since then, he's seen some success in America over the last decade: His song "Sugar Man" was sampled by Nas for "You're Da Man," off his 2001 album, Stillmatic, and Seattle label Light in the Attic re-released Cold Fact in 2008. More recently, Rodriguez has appeared on The Late show With David Letterman, CNN and 60 Minutes. I asked him a few questions as he made his way to Dallas for tonight's show.
You released two albums. Did you ever make it down to Texas in support of them? No, I played pretty much only around Detroit and Michigan. I did play in Austin at South By Southwest a few years ago. Never played Dallas before, though.
You're doing a three-city tour around Texas. How's it been so far? Good, I had a great audience in Austin last night. They were out for a good time, and it went really well. We're on the train making our way to Dallas right now. We should be there in a few hours, and we're looking forward to playing tonight.
What do you think of the artist opening for you, Jenny O.? I've caught just a glimpse of her so far, but she's got some really great songs. She's a really great musician. I like her style; it's very modern. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her.
Since the release of Searching For Sugar Man, it seems your fan base has grown. There's even a sports talk radio program in Dallas that's done several segments on you. What do think about all these new fans? We're breaking through in America for sure. We've been touring with the film and seeing more and more fans. The film has been all over the world: It received an award in Moscow, it played Tribeca, Michael Moore's festival, Australia and London. I'm only in it for eight minutes, and they came to Detroit six times to interview me. They've really done a lot with it. I do well in South Africa and Australia, but we're getting support in America now because of it. The 60 Minutes interview has helped. We're getting the 60 Minutes crowd.
Rodriguez and Jenny O. perform tonight, October 22, at House of Blues.