The surreal back-from-obscurity story of forgotten American folk singer Sixto Rodriguez is one of the most amazing second acts in American music history.
After recording two records in the early 1970s, Rodriguez pretty much quit the music business and settled down in Detroit, supporting himself with odd jobs and stints as a manual laborer.
That’s the last most people in the United States ever heard from him. But overseas, in Australia and especially South Africa, his stridently political songs about racial injustice and poverty struck a chord. In the 1980s and ’90s, while Rodriguez himself hammered nails and demolished buildings in Detroit, kids in South Africa were trading his songs and building a musical mythology around him—a mythology fueled by the mistaken idea that, among other things, he was dead.
In the late 1990s, two of Rodriguez’s fans set out to tell the story of their hero’s supposed suicide. Their search, and the discovery that he is still alive, was chronicled in this year’s Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man.
Suddenly popular again, Rodriguez is now touring the country, resurrecting the poetic folk-psychedelia that most of the world ignored the first time around. His show here sold out instantly. May 15. The Fitzgerald Theater, 10 E. Exchange St., St. Paul, 651-290-1200, fitzgeraldtheater.publicradio.org —T. S.