Rodriguez, Searching for Sugar Man fame dies at 81; 5 things to know about the singer

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By Webdesk


Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, commonly known as Sugarman Singer Rodriguez, a singer-songwriter whose extraordinary career was documented in the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, has died at 81. His cause of death was not disclosed on his official website. The official website Sugarman.org even extended their condolences to Rodriguez’s daughters. 

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Rodriguez death: 5 things to know about Searching for Sugar Man singer 

Rodriguez was discovered in Australia before South Africa

A few copies of Rodriguez’s debut LP, Cold Fact, arrived in Australia months after the album tanked in the United States. One made its way into the hands of Australian radio DJ Holger Brockman, who began playing Sugar Man on Sydney’s 2SM radio station. Cold Fact began selling for upwards of $300 in record stores, and Blue Goose Records eventually released it to massive sales across the continent.

It wasn’t until his daughter discovered information about him on the internet in 1997 that he became famous in South Africa. He then embarked on a country tour. Paolo Nutini and the South African band Just Jinger covered his song Sugar Man, bringing him even more popularity. Nas also sampled the original song.

Rodriguez gave away most of what he had earned

Rodriguez had spent almost 40 years in the same humble Detroit home. He didn’t have a car, a computer, or even a television. His daughter, Regan, persuaded him to buy a smartphone a few years ago after she became tired of driving around the neighbourhood looking for him. Regan explained, “He lives a very Spartan life; I’m almost tempted to label it Amish. He once informed me that there are three essential needs in life: food, clothing, and shelter. Everything else is icing once you get down to that level.” The late singer intended to give the most of his fortune to his three daughters and some old pals.

Rodriguez was on his way to join the Vietnam Army

Despite being a pacifist, Rodriguez considered joining the army during the height of the Vietnam War. Although he didn’t end up joining the army, According to a report in Rolling Stone, the singer said, “It was the spirit of the times; they have a war every 15 or 20 years, and there’s always a crop of youngbloods who have no idea what’s going on. They were influenced by the media. I adore my homeland. I just don’t trust the government. I had to fight my brother twice over that, I also recently got married, and they didn’t accept married people at the time.”

Rodriguez initially declined to be a part of documentary Searching for Sugar Man

Malik Bendjelloul, a first-time Swedish filmmaker, first heard about Rodriguez while traveling through Africa. He had intended to make a short film for Swedish television, but the concept expanded into a major film. He chose to tell the story from the point of view of the South African fans. Bendjelloul revealed, “‘Why did everyone think Citizen Kane was such a fantastic movie?’ he wondered. ‘Because it was extremely clever.’ It didn’t tell the story of this wealthy man. It portrayed the narrative of a journalist attempting to tell a story about a wealthy man. That was what initially drew me in—the fact that this story would be unique.”

There was only one problem: Rodriguez was adamantly opposed to appearing in the film. Bendjelloul said, “His kids told me that I could probably meet him, but I shouldn’t get my hopes up about an interview. For four years, I went to Detroit every year. He agreed to be questioned only after my third visit. I believe he changed his mind because he felt sorry for us. He noticed how hard we were working and thought, ‘I suppose I better support these guys.'”

Rodriguez was losing his sight

Rodriguez had glaucoma, which had severely reduced his vision. As a result, he walked very slowly and was frequently grasping someone else’s arm. 

For the unversed, the singer’s life was the subject of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival debut of the documentary Searching for Sugar Man. The next year, it won an Oscar for best documentary.

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