The lowdown: Rodriguez

Sophie Harris looks back on the career of 'Sugar Man' as he prepares for a rare visit to London

  • Age

    Sixto Diaz Rodriguez turned 70 in 2012. He still wears leather.

  • Sounds like

    If Donovan had been raised in the hood. This veteran singer-songwriter grew up in America’s toughest city, Detroit, to Mexican immigrant parents. The two albums he released in the early ’70s mix mellow folk and funk with protest-song polemics delivered in a gorgeously smooth, dry voice.

  • Significance

    Rodriguez’s defiant songs didn’t make much of a mark in the US, but did find their way to Apartheid-era South Africa where a cult following sprang up – albeit one that Rodriguez was not aware of.

  • High point

    The 1970 narco-anthem ‘Sugar Man’. In the mid-’90s, two curious fans decided to find out what had happened to the musician, who seemed to have vanished in a puff of smoke. That search resulted in this year’s lauded documentary movie ‘Searching for Sugar Man’.

  • Low point

    Rumours around Rodriguez’s absence from musical life included that he’d murdered his girlfriend and gone to a mental institution, and that he’d set light to himself onstage. The truth was that he was living happily with his family in Detroit. Since his rediscovery, he’s performed in South Africa, Australia and the States.

  • Legacy

    That it’s never, ever too late for a comeback.