Sugar Man Sixto Rodriguez's Tasmanian turn

SUGAR MAN: Sixto Rodriguez's albums had a major impact in South Africa without him knowing.

SUGAR MAN: Sixto Rodriguez's albums had a major impact in South Africa without him knowing.

IT’S been many years since US songwriter Sixto Rodriguez visited Tasmania, but a quote he saw inscribed on a statue while visiting is etched in his memory. 

The inscription read: ‘Not unfamiliar with evil, he learnt to pity the wretched’.

Years later the enigmatic words still appeal to the musician.

“I adopted that word ‘wretched’ because it describes some kind of mental state,” he said.

“I think it’s very descriptive of societies, advanced and developing stage.”

Rodriguez, a “solid 74”, is about to embark on an Australian tour taking in Tasmania. His revived career still captivates fans.

Since Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man brought his story to the mainstream in 2012, the songwriter has kept his life in Detroit simple. 

He still lives in the house he bought for US$50 at a government auction in the 1970s, and has given away much of the money he’s made.

When he resumes international touring, his life in construction and the years of obscurity seem far away.

“It’s like entering a different time zone.

“We do that culture shock.”

His first albums, Cold Fact (1970) and Coming From Reality (1971) made no impact in the US upon their release, and the artist’s career seemed over. 

Rodriguez continued his life not knowing for years that his music had gained a huge following in South Africa, even energising the anti-apartheid movement. 

When fans began searching for him, his daughter learned of his popularity and told them he was alive in Detroit. He began touring internationally.

His resurrected career has brought his songs to a new generation of music fans.

The songwriter, whose socially-conscious lyrics resonated worldwide, still follows his country’s politics closely.

While the myth of Rodriguez fascinates many, the musician insists it isn’t all true. 

“I try to explain who I am and the thing is a lot of people, they watch too many movies.”

Rodriguez will play around the country, and in Tasmania at the Derwent Entertainment Centre, Glenorchy on November 21 with Archie Roach.

Tickets are still available. 

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