Oscar-nominated 'Searching for Sugar Man' renews singer-songwriter's career

Rodriguez is back on the concert trail thanks to the Oscar-nominated documentary “Searching for Sugar Man.”
BY GENE TRIPLETT etriplett@opubco.com Modified: January 24, 2013 at 5:31 pm •  Published: January 25, 2013
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Meanwhile, back in South Africa, he was, as one record label executive says in the film, “bigger than the Rolling Stones.”

But Rodriguez had no knowledge of this for years, and his South African fans had no idea of his obscurity in his own country — until Cape Town record store owner Stephen “Sugar” Segerman found out in the mid-1990s that Rodriguez's albums had been out of print in the U.S. since the early '70s, and almost no one had ever even heard of the man or his music in his native country.

So Segerman and South African rock journalist Craig Bartholomew-Strydom began a search, and they eventually learned — via Internet from Rodriguez's eldest daughter Eva, who had found their website — that rumors of the singer-songwriter's death were quite bogus.

“A guy named Segerman, Sugar, who's in the film, he came to Detroit and he showed me the ... CD, and he said, ‘This is what's out there for you.' ... And I was kind of skeptical.”

But Segerman swore to Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, born in Detroit with American Indian and Hispanic blood in his veins and living in extremely modest surroundings, that he was “bigger than Elvis” in a country he'd never even visited.

Rodriguez was persuaded to travel there in 1995. And he was greeted at the airport like rock royalty. He has returned to South Africa four times since and performed in more than 30 concerts. He's also toured Australia several times, too, because they seem to like him there as well.

And now, with the exposure from the film, he is signed to play the Coachella music festival, Glastonbury in England and Primavera music festival in Spain in coming months. He's finally getting royalties for his work, but according to the film he's giving most of the money away to family and friends.

And he's still living in the modest house he's occupied for the last 40 years.

“Oh yes,” he said. “I'm refurbishing that now and I have a couple of bucks to do that. In fact, I talked to my daughters and they're helping me along with it, so we got some new windows on one side of the house, so I'm thrilled that I can do some of that work on that house that I've been in for a while.”

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