Sixto ‘Sugar Man’ Rodriguez rose to fame during Apartheid in South Africa; only he had no idea until several decades later when two South African fans went looking for him.
Global (09 June 2022) – Imagine creating beautiful music but never becoming famous for it, only to find out decades later that you were, in fact, a cultural phenomenon in a far away country. That is what happened to Sixto ‘Sugar Man’ Rodriguez, who was famous in South Africa but not in his home country of America.
Rodriguez wrote and recorded his music decades ago, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but not much ever came from it, and he spent the majority of his life working in construction, living hand to mouth. However, in South Africa, Rodriguez was a star, and his music spread far and wide, including over the ocean to Australia and New Zealand. He gained some fame in Australia and even toured the country twice.
For decades his music was played and handed down between generations. Fans were left shocked when news broke of the artist’s tragic death. Some say he set himself alight, while others spoke of him shooting himself. The real story wouldn’t be revealed until 2012.
South Africa’s Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom decided they wanted to find out the truth about Rodriguez and started tracking him down. In the late 1990s, the pair found Rodriguez in Detroit, alive and living simply. And he had no idea he was famous. He was invited to South Africa and performed a sell-out show in 1998.
The pair filmed the process for a documentary called “Searching for Sugar Man”, which was later released in 2012. The documentary shared the story of Rodriguez and detailed Segerman and Strydom’s search for the singer. The documentary went on to earn multiple awards, including a BAFTA and an Oscar. The film thrust Rodriguez’s music onto the commercial stage, and he finally achieved the global recognition his music deserved.
The musician remained humble throughout his delayed rise to fame. What came next was the discussion about decades of royalties owed to the humble artist. After the success of a court case related to his publishing, it was ruled that he was owed royalties, and those will now be paid out, just in time for his 80th birthday!
Rodriguez can now retire with total peace of mind. He holds no grudges for all the years lost and feels that he lives his reality and lived it well.
Take a look at the trailer for the documentary below. If you are looking for it, you can buy or rent the documentary from Amazon.