One of the most remarkable musical rediscoveries of recent times has been the amazing tale of late-in-life recognition for the soulful Detroit singer/songwriter known simply as Rodriguez (born Sixto Diaz Rodriguez). In 1970 and 1971 he released two truly classic lost albums, Cold Fact and Coming From Reality (both available as Light in the Attic reissues). With messages about life, love, poverty, and anti-authoritarian rebellion, they revealed Rodriguez’s humanistic take on the hard lessons of the street and the social injustice that faced his generation. Rich in instrumental color with Dylanesque lyrical turns, these psychedelic soul/folk rock masterpieces easily rival the iconic records of such contemporaries as Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix, or Arthur Lee and Love.
Appreciated by underground cognoscenti but widely ignored, despite positive press, by the buying public in the States, the records attained unexpected acceptance in Australia and especially in South Africa. Rodriguez’s message music had particular resonance for young South African audiences fed up with life under apartheid, and he was as popular there as Elvis or the Rolling Stones. But the reclusive Rodriguez (known for playing shows with his back to the audience) had no idea of his enthusiastically received international impact (and he never received any royalties). Disappointed by the lack of support, he took a day job as a construction worker and disappeared from the scene. He was even rumored to have died onstage after setting himself on fire.
Decades later, Rodriguez was found alive and well in Motown. Recently, his improbable story was told in the crowd-pleasing and heartwarming documentary film Searching for Sugar Man (2012), whose title derives from one of his songs, “Sugar Man.” The New York Times describes the film as “a hugely appealing documentary about fans, faith, and an enigmatic Age of Aquarius musician who burned bright and hopeful before disappearing” and concludes that the filmmakers “went looking for a man and found something much greater.”
Now to top it off, Rodriguez is playing a select number of concerts so that audiences can hear his timeless classic tunes from the man of mystery himself, still clad in black, with eyes hidden by shades. And you are lucky enough to be able to catch him up close, here in Columbus.
Admission$18 all audiences
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