Sixto Rodríguez, the elusive protagonist of Searching for Sugar Man, dies

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Half the world discovered sixto rodriguez in the summer of 2012 and forgot it before 2014; as in a love of youth. Rodríguez’s music, halfway between the Dylan songwriter and the seventies soul, his figure alien to everything and his story, noble, sad and a bit absurd, became an obsession that appeared on the background music of the stores , in conversations with friends and in magazine reports. Rodríguez was the elusive protagonist of Searching for Sugar Mana modestly produced documentary, as there are so many today on the platforms of streaming, which surprised millions of viewers around the world. On the weekend of its premiere in the United States, it grossed $27,000 and then it improved its results day by day until it remained on the billboard for 57 weeks. A decade after that crush, Rodríguez has died in Detroit, at the age of 81.

Who was Rodriguez? A singer-songwriter from Detroit of Mexican origin who rode the back roads in the music industry in the early 70s, when he released two albums that went more or less unnoticed: Cold fact (1970) y Comng for reality (1971). His record company went bankrupt and he left his third record unfinished and Rodríguez resigned himself to leaving music as a hobby for Saturday nights and working as a worker in a demolition company..

The twist in their story was that, in the mid-1980s, those lost records reappeared by chance in Australia and South Africa, where they became hits. In South Africa, in the years when Apartheid was beginning to crack, Rodríguez’s songs, innocently anti-establishment, became a mysterious symbol for whites fighting against segregationist system. Mysterious why? Because no one knew who that Rodríguez was.

In that misunderstanding I inquired Searching for Sugar Man, the 2012 film that, above all, won over its viewers thanks, in part, to its soundtrack, to Rodríguez’s songs that enchantingly synthesized the music of its time. His second incentive was of a moral nature: Malik Bendjelloul, the Swedish director of the documentary, made Rodríguez a kind of Bartleby of pop music, a man who could live with failure and ignore success. And there was one more charm: Searching for Sugar Man it also served to discover the culture of liberal white South Africans who in the 1980s wanted to break with the brutal world of their parents.

“Rodriguez inspired a freedom movement in the hardest moments of apartheid,” he explained in 2012 Malik Bendjelloul in THE WORLD. «He was the only singer who became popular in South Africa with a subversive political message. He was a reference for the white liberal movement in the country.” White? “Yes, it was mainly whites who listened to him. That is seen in the movie. However, once the tape was presented I was surprised. In Durban, a man sought me out and told me that he was a friend of the activist Steve Biko and he assured me that he too, the anti-apartheid icon, was an outspoken Rodríguez fan.”

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