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Rodriguez, lost rocker rediscovered by ‘Searching for Sugar Man,’ dead at 81

The Detroit musician enjoyed a career renaissance after 2012 Oscar-winning documentary

By Daniel Kreps

Sixto Rodriguez (Picture: Getty)

Sixto Rodriguez, the obscure Seventies rocker known as Rodriguez whose music enjoyed a renaissance decades later thanks to the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, died Tuesday at age 81.

Rodriguez’s death was announced Wednesday on his official website. “It is with great sadness that we at announce that Sixto Diaz Rodriguez has passed away earlier today,” the statement read. No cause of death was provided, but Rodriguez reportedly dealt with health issues in recent years.

The Detroit-born rocker, who moonlighted as a musician while working on Motor City assembly lines, recorded a pair of albums in the early Seventies — Cold Fact and Coming From Reality — but neither sold well stateside and Rodriguez’s music slipped into obscurity.

However, unbeknownst to Rodriguez, his music — notably the Cold Fact opener “Sugar Man” — became hits and fostered a cult following in Australia and South Africa, with Johannesburg-born Dave Matthews among one of his early fans; Matthews has performed ‘Sugar Man’ live with his band.

Rodriguez’s disappearance from the music industry fueled rumors of his death by various, incredible means — including either self-immolation or shooting himself onstage — but two South African fans discovered that he was living a normal life in his native Detroit in the late-Nineties. The fans’ search for Rodriguez was the subject of the 2012 documentary Searching for Sugar Man, which helped expose Rodriguez and his music to millions after it won both the BAFTA and Academy Award for Best Documentary.

Thanks to the film, over 40 years after releasing his lone two albums, Rodriguez was invited to perform at festivals like Coachella and Glastonbury, and embarking on tours around the world.

“It’s been a great odyssey,” Rodriguez told The Detroit News in 2008. “All those years, you know, I always considered myself a musician. But, reality happened.”

From Rolling Stone US.

This story is developing…