October 4, 2023

By Corey Williams | Related Press

DETROIT — Singer and songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, who turned the topic of the Oscar-winning documentary “Looking for Sugar Man,” has died. He was 81.

Rodriguez’s dying Tuesday in Detroit was introduced on the Sugarman.org web site and confirmed Wednesday by his granddaughter, Amanda Kennedy.

He died following a brief sickness, in accordance with his spouse, Konny Rodriguez, 72.

A 2013 Related Press story referred to Rodriguez as “the best protest singer and songwriter that most individuals by no means heard of.”

His albums flopped in the US within the Nineteen Seventies, however — unknown to him — he later turned a star in South Africa the place his songs protesting the Vietnam Battle, racial inequality, abuse of girls and social mores impressed white liberals horrified by the nation’s brutal racial segregation system of apartheid.

Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary “Looking for Sugar Man” introduced Rodriguez to a a lot bigger viewers. The movie tells of two South Africans’ mission to hunt out the destiny of their musical hero. It received the Academy Award for greatest documentary in 2013.

Rodriguez was “extra common than Elvis” in South Africa, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman mentioned in 2013. The Cape City document retailer proprietor’s nickname comes from the Rodriguez music “Sugarman.”

As his reputation in South Africa grew, Rodriguez lived in Detroit. However his followers in South Africa believed he additionally was well-known in the US. They heard tales that the musician had died dramatically: He’d shot himself within the head onstage in Moscow; he’d set himself aflame and burned to dying earlier than an viewers someplace else; he’d died of a drug overdose, was in a psychological establishment, was incarcerated for murdering his girlfriend.

In 1996, Segerman and journalist Carl Bartholomew-Strydom got down to be taught the reality. Their efforts led them to Detroit, the place they discovered Rodriguez engaged on building websites.

“It’s rock-and-roll historical past now. Who would-a thought?” Rodriguez instructed The Related Press a decade in the past.

Rodriguez mentioned he simply “went again to work” after his music profession fizzled, elevating a household that features three daughters and launching a number of unsuccessful campaigns for public workplace. He made a residing by guide labor in Detroit.

Nonetheless, he by no means stopped enjoying his music.

“I felt I used to be prepared for the world, however the world wasn’t prepared for me,” Rodriguez mentioned. “I really feel all of us have a mission — we now have obligations. These activates the journey, completely different twists — life just isn’t linear.”

Konny Rodriguez mentioned the couple met in 1972 whereas each had been college students at Wayne State College in Detroit and married within the early Eighties. Though nonetheless married on the time of his dying, the couple had been separated for various years, she mentioned Wednesday whereas shuffling by a few of Sixto Rodriguez’s memorabilia.

“He beloved faculty. He was born to be taught, to show himself,” Konny Rodriguez mentioned. “The music was extra to carry individuals collectively. He would play anyplace, anytime. That’s the place I observed him. He was strolling down Cass Avenue with a guitar and a black bag. He was a extremely eccentric man.”

The 2 albums she mentioned he recorded in 1969 and 1971 “didn’t do effectively.”

“I’m positive that was nonetheless in his head,” Konny Rodriguez added. “Then in 1979, I picked up the telephone and it was a man with an Australian accent who mentioned ‘he should come to Australia as a result of he’s very well-known right here.’”

She mentioned they toured Australia in 1979 and 1981 and later discovered concerning the affect of his music in South Africa. “Apartheid was happening,” she mentioned. “Frank Sinatra had a full-page advert, ‘Don’t go to South Africa.’ We didn’t.”