This is a wonderful hopeful piece by my cousin Tom. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Since bad news is in no short supply now, if you’re ready for a morale boost please check out the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” now showing on Netflix and Prime. (Released in 2012 it won an Oscar in 2013.)
Growing up in Ottawa, Ohio Detroit “The Motor City” was only 120 miles away, but a world away in reality, and CKLW was a mainstay of my radio experience. We know Detroit has a deep history in popular music in the last 60 years. It was the birthplace of Motown, Bob Seger’s launch pad, and later home to Kid Rock & Eminem. And it was, and still is, home to one of the best musical artists you’ve likely never heard about - Sixto Rodriguez, or professionally, Rodriguez.
Born in 1942 Rodriguez released 2 albums, Cold Fact & Coming From Reality, in the early 70’s. Despite good reviews where he was compared to Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens the albums tanked and his record company dropped him. In a stranger than fiction turn of events he became hugely popular in South Africa. His songs became a voice in the anti-apartheid movement and endured for years. Over the last 50 years he outsold Elvis there. There were only two problems. He never learned of his success there and his fans there thought he was dead. Rumors included his taking his own life on stage after a poorly received concert.
In the late 1990s two South African fans decided to track the legend down. It ultimately led to their finding him living a simple workman’s life in Detroit. After retreating from the music business he worked in auto plants and rehabbed old homes. When he was “found” he was living in the house he bought for $50 at a public auction and didn’t have a phone. In the intervening years he lived humbly, was involved in local causes, and unsuccessfully ran for public office several times.
After making contact with Rodriguez he was convinced to come to South Africa where he preformed a series of sold out shows. He was stunned by his reception and the fan’s appreciation for his music. He returned to the US and resumed his uncomplicated life. Since the movie’s release he has experienced a modest upturn as a musician but he still remains largely unknown.
As our current days drag on, the movie serves as a message of how good things can come out for the best against unbelievable odds.
Thanks so much Dr. Tom.
Be Safe Everyone!
Let's chat soon,
PS If you know of anyone who might enjoy this romp, please sign them up HERE!