Legendary folk musician Sixto Rodriguez dies

 August 10, 2023

Sixto Rodriguez, the enigmatic folk musician and elusive subject of the award-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, has died at the age of 81.

The Detroit native was initially ignored in the United States, but his psychedelic, Dylan-esque music brought him a cult following in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

Folk musician Rodriguez dies

Rodriguez led a modest life in his native Detroit, where he raised three daughters and worked as a construction laborer for many years following a short-lived recording career that produced two albums.

He didn't find widespread recognition until 2012, when a documentary about his remarkable life, Searching for Sugar Man, was released to critical acclaim.

Rodriguez went on to tour with greats like Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, who paid tribute to Rodriguez in a post.

Fame in South Africa

Initially passed over in neglect at home, Rodriguez became a countercultural icon in South Africa under apartheid, where his protest-themed music on the album Cold Fact struck a chord.

Legends about the obscure artist took root, with some suggesting he had killed himself or overdosed on drugs.

He toured Australia but was unaware of his fame in South Africa until his daughter found a website dedicated to him in the 1990s, which led him to tour the country for the first time.

"Oh gee, it blew me away when I found out, it was so good," he once recalled. "All these youngbloods came rushing towards the stage. It was crazy. In South Africa, people talked to me about how they ran into the album. It happens all over the place, people coming up to me, into the material."

Cult musician led modest life

It wasn't until last year that Rodriguez finally received royalty payments that he was owed from his record sales overseas, allowing him to retire before his 80th birthday.

He pursued public office in Detroit several times, never successfully.

The news of his death was confirmed on his website Sugarman.org.

"It is with great sadness that we at Sugarman.org announce that Sixto Diaz Rodriguez has passed away earlier today."

"We extend our most heartfelt condolences to his daughters - Sandra, Eva and Regan - and to all his family. Rodriguez was 81 years old. May His Dear Soul Rest In Peace."

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