Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Music: Sixto Rodriguez

Forgotten geniuses. In the last half-century, the U.S. music industry has created quite a few of these. Is it my imagination, or do many of these rediscovered artists happen to not be white? One thing is clear: minority performers weren't cut much slack when it came to eccentric or difficult behavior. At an industry showcase in 1970, singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez invited a member of the Brown Berets, a Hispanic activist organization similar to the Black Panthers, to join him on stage. His revolutionary fervor did him no favors with the recording industry executives in the audience. Mediocre sales, in addition to his being "unmarketable," led to his being dropped by his label.

Rodriguez was born the sixth child of a Mexican-American family in Detroit. A gifted lyricist, he wrote songs that were political without being polemic. The album Cold Fact (1970), which sold poorly in the U.S., was exactly right for the political climate of South Africa. Rodriguez became somewhat of a legend in S.A. and Australia, even touring with the Aussy group Midnight Oil in the early 80s. It took about 30 years for his reputation to catch up in the country of his birth. Here's "Sugar Man," with a lovely psychedelic video that somewhat belies the desolation of the lyrics.

Cold Fact-A Retrospective (from [Link]

"Sixto Rodriguez: the rock'n'roll Lord Lucan" [Link]

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