The Wonder of Sixto Rodriguez
will ease you into Monday
Known primarily as “Rodriguez” today, the Mexican-American artist straight outta Detroit, he has gone by several cool monikers since the early 70s, Rod Riguez, Sixth Prince and Jesús Rodríguez.”
Having seen him live at the Greek Theatre in L.A., I wish he’d go by “Sixth Prince” because there is something otherworldly and special about this man—his inner glow, his outer glow, his presence, whatever you term it, it is palpable as it spills out from him to his audience like a swathe of golden ether that encircles and fills the space at his lives shows.
If you aren’t familiar with Rodriguez’ story, and you’re a musicphile, you can’t go another day without watching the 2012 documentary “Searching for Sugarman”, which goes through his lifetime of anonymity in the United States, working in construction and other fields of hard, physical low-pay labor, all the while having no idea that he was an cultural phenom, an icon, and bigger and more loved than Elvis was in South Africa and a few other places in Europe. Alas, the internet and social media would never allow for this travesty to occur today.
Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, his is a story for the music ages, a story about an artist, a poet, a songwriter, who some say, including me, is better than Bob Dylan on any given day, whose work laid dusty and buried in the vinyl album collections of long-retired music producers, who couldn’t bear to toss the two musical masterpieces that never gained their rightful public recognition.
But thanks to two superfans in South Africa and an earnest, young Swedish documentarian hungry for a great story, this treasure trove of poetry-music was not only rediscovered, but the documentary won an Oscar and set off a surge of album sales and a non-stop world concert tour that’s still going today. Not only was Rodriguez’ life changed, but so were the hearts of millions of new fans around the world who were touched by his lyrical storytelling and still-relevant social commentary through music.
As my dad, a musicphile and Rolling Stones superfan, says, “The best thing ever that happened to Mick Jagger was Jim Morrison passing away. Jim eclipsed him 10-fold when they were both alive.” The Rolling Stones became a Rock n’Roll juggernaut supergroup and the kings of their era only because The Doors faded away.
The same can be said of Rodriguez and Bob Dylan. Dylan may get all the fanfare and recognition, and he even won the Nobel Prize for Literature for having “created new poetic expressions within the great American song”, but I have to Wonder if that ever would’ve happened it weren’t for that unexplained, momentary twist of fate that occurs in the fabric of time when bad timing and bad luck collide that kept Rodriguez from wearing that cultural music crown instead of Dylan.
Website worth checking out: http://www.sugarman.org