One of the weirdest musical stories you will ever hear of is about Sixto Rodriguez. Born in 1942, a native of Detroit, he was expected to be a star like Bob Dylan.
Unfortunately, his two records sold very few copies and he was dropped by his record company.
So basically, he got on with life, raising a family and doing his best.s musical career behind him - or so he thought.
Unbeknownst to him, his music had found its way to South Africa where he became a major star and a significant part of the anti-apartheid movement.
A generation of South Africans, Black and White, embraced his music even though no one knew who the hell he was.
Many people, in fact, believed he was dead. There was even a rumor that he had shot himself during a show.
It’s hard to describe how seminal a figure he was in SA, but he was sort of a combination of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. Not musically, mind you, but how he was seen.
A combination of things happened that, in hindsight, are just remarkable. First, some of the South Africans who had grown up on his music began to ask what happened to him.
Keep in mind he had no idea about any of this.
Then in 1997, one of his daughters came across a Web page about him and told her dad. He got in touch and eventually toured South Africa.
The emotions are impossible to describe: here’s Rodriguez (his professional name), an American from Detroit who had an enormous impact in SA, particularly among the first generation of white who were ready to kill apartheid, and those people, who were so touched and inspired by his music but who didn’t have any idea of who he was or even if he was still alive.
They made a movie about it called Searching for Sugarman, which we highly recommend. It’s a stunning story about a highly unusual man who found the most unusual success imaginable and who handled his decline and later success with the utmost grace and humility.
There is nothing quite like this story. And obviously, with the Internet, the chances of anything like this happening again are minute.