He was hailed as the next Bob Dylan, only to quickly drop into obscurity. Then, decades later, he found out that he had been a major musical sensation, an inspiration, and even a household name, in countries around the world. The story of Sixto Rodriguez is almost too incredible to believe.
Rodriguez, a Mexican-American singer/songwriter/guitar player from Detroit, who recorded two albums in the early 1970s, is an amazingly talented musician and lyricist, whose work has gone largely unrecognized in the United States until 2012.
While these albums never really took off in the US, bootleg copies of his music became a huge hit in South Africa, where he is considered a musical legend of greater talent, importance, and fame than even the Rolling Stones.
It was Rodriguez's words that inspired millions of people in South Africa to fight for the end of Apartheid. He inspired fans in Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and around the world, but having given up his music career to work as a laborer in Detroit, no one was able to track him down for decades.
Due to re-releases of his music, a brilliant documentary about his story (Searching for Sugar Man), a new tour, and an appearance as musical guest on The Late Show with David Letterman, Rodriguez, now 70, is starting to receive the attention he has deserved for years.
Rodriguez never received royalties or financial compensation for his success -- and is unlikely to any time soon. He still lives in the same home in Detroit and works every day.
Now, we want to give Rodriguez the recognition he deserves with a Kennedy Center Honor. Though he was not included in the 2012 or 2013 list of Honorees, we hope that Rodriguez will get some sort of special recognition in 2014.
Rodriguez is an inspiration to so many people around the world, but he has never received appropriate recognition for his significant contribution to the arts.
The Kennedy Center’s annual honors ceremony is considered one of the top honors for artists. Past recipients include Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, and many other cherished individuals. What better way to give Rodriguez a small bit of the recognition and gratitude he deserves for his work?
Please join me in asking the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to honor Sixto Rodriguez.
On its website, the Kennedy Center says they welcome “grassroots nominations.” We must use this grassroots effort to make sure that Rodriguez is never forgotten again!