Rodriguez, a Detroit musician whose songs, stuffed with protest and stark imagery from the city streets, failed to seek out an American viewers within the early Nineteen Seventies however resonated in Australia and particularly South Africa, resulting in a late-career resurgence captured within the Oscar-winning documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” in 2012, died on Tuesday. He was 81.
A posting on his official web site introduced his loss of life however didn’t say the place he died or present a trigger.
Rodriguez’s story was, as The New York Times put it in 2012, “a real-life story of expertise disregarded, unhealthy luck and missed alternatives, with an inconceivable cease within the Hamptons and a Hollywood conclusion.”
Rodriguez — who carried out below simply his surname however whose full identify was Sixto Diaz Rodriguez — was taking part in bars in Detroit within the late Sixties, his folk-rock reminding those that heard it of Bob Dylan, when the producer Harry Balk signed him. Within the documentary, Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore, who would go on to provide his first album, “Chilly Truth” (1970), instructed of listening to Rodriguez at a very smoky institution referred to as the Sewer on the Detroit River, the place he was taking part in, as he usually did, together with his again to the viewers.
“Possibly it pressured you to take heed to the lyrics, since you couldn’t see the man’s face,” Mr. Coffey mentioned.
A single launched below the identify “Rod Riguez” went nowhere. “Chilly Truth,” launched on the Sussex label, drew a smattering of favorable notices; its first monitor, “Sugar Man,” gave the documentary its title.
“Rodriguez is a singing poet/journalist, telling tales of at the moment,” Jim Knippenberg wrote in The Cincinnati Enquirer. “He does it with a voice very like Dylan’s, very Dylanesque imagery and a musical backing dominated nearly completely by a guitar. However he’s not a Dylan carbon. Rodriguez is way more express.”
Principally, although, the album went unnoticed in America, as did its follow-up a yr later, “Coming From Actuality.”
“Getting the data minimize was straightforward,” Rodriguez instructed The Sydney Morning Herald of Australia in 1979. “Getting them performed was quite a bit tougher.”
He was being interviewed by an Australian newspaper that yr as a result of, whereas he had settled right into a life as a laborer and workplace employee in Detroit (although nonetheless taking part in bars and even operating unsuccessfully for varied political places of work), he had — unknown to him — been growing followers abroad. Australia was one place the place his music had discovered an viewers, and in 1979 he was invited to tour there. He returned in 1981 for a couple of exhibits with the band Midnight Oil and launched a stay album in Australia.
Rodriguez’s music had discovered an excellent larger following in South Africa, which was nonetheless below apartheid and minimize off from the remainder of the world in lots of respects. He appeared to don’t know how widespread he was there, particularly amongst white South Africans uncomfortable with apartheid and the nation’s rigidly conservative tradition.
“To many people South Africans, he was the soundtrack to our lives,” Stephen Segerman, proprietor of a Cape City file retailer, mentioned within the documentary. “Within the mid-’70s, when you walked right into a random white, liberal, middle-class family that had a turntable and a pile of pop data, and when you flipped by the data, you’ll all the time see ‘Abbey Street’ by the Beatles, you’d all the time see ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ by Simon and Garfunkel, and you’ll all the time see ‘Chilly Truth’ by Rodriguez. To us, it was one of the vital well-known data of all time. The message it had was ‘Be anti-establishment.’”
Within the mid-Nineteen Nineties Mr. Segerman started looking for out extra concerning the mysterious artist referred to as Rodriguez and the way he had died; rumors have been rampant that he had killed himself onstage, died of an overdose, and so forth. He joined forces with Craig Bartholomew-Strydom, a journalist who was additionally looking for Rodriguez, and ultimately they discovered the singer, nonetheless dwelling in Detroit. A 1998 tour of South Africa adopted, with Rodriguez taking part in six sold-out exhibits at 5,000-seat arenas.
“It was unusual seeing all these vivid white faces, all of them figuring out each phrase to each certainly one of my songs,” he instructed The Sunday Telegraph of Britain in 2009.
After the South Africa tour he performed exhibits in England, Sweden and different international locations. In america, the label Gentle within the Attic rereleased “Chilly Truth” in 2008 and “Coming From Actuality” in 2009.
And there was one other spherical of rediscovery forward. In 2012 Malik Bendjelloul launched “Trying to find Sugar Man,” his first and solely documentary (he died in 2014), to rave opinions. The movie, which gained the Oscar for greatest documentary characteristic, targeting the search by Mr. Segerman and Mr. Bartholomew-Strydom and included an interview with Rodriguez, who within the aftermath discovered himself on the Hamptons Worldwide Movie Competition and embarking on a contemporary spherical of touring.
Matt Sullivan based Gentle within the Attic Information, which reissued Rodriguez’s albums.
“His phrases and music have been brutally trustworthy and uncooked to the core,” he mentioned by e mail. “It immediately struck a chord the second we heard it, and nonetheless does, practically 20 years later.”
Sixto Diaz Rodriguez was born on July 10, 1942, in Detroit. His mom, Maria, died when he was a boy. His father, Ramon, was a laborer who turned a foreman at a metal plant.
He mentioned that he began taking part in the guitar at 16.
“After all I’ve been into Dylan ceaselessly,” he instructed The Instances in 2012, “and in addition Barry McGuire, the entire ‘Eve of Destruction’ factor.”
Throughout his interval of relative anonymity after the discharge of his albums, he earned a bachelor’s diploma in philosophy at Wayne State College in Detroit.
Details about his survivors was not instantly accessible.
The “Coming From Actuality” album contains a song called “Cause,” a lament about arduous instances and life’s disappointments.
“They instructed me all people’s bought to pay their dues,” Rodriguez sings. “And I defined that I had overpaid them.”
However within the 2009 interview with The Sunday Telegraph, he was extra serene about his uncommon profession path.
“My story isn’t a rags to riches story,” he mentioned. “It’s rags to rags, and I’m glad about that. The place different folks stay in a synthetic world, I really feel I stay in the true world. And nothing beats actuality.”