Not everyone can rise to fame as quickly or as easily as someone like Vampire Weekend. Many factors play into the success of an artist, and no matter how good they are or how hard they work, a little bit of luck goes a long way.
38 years after its release, Sixto Rodriguez’ debut “Cold Fact” is only finally getting recognition in America as a brilliant musical accomplishment.
Released in 1970, the Detroit-native’s first album never got any attention in his homeland, which led to an early end to his career as a musician. Amazingly, across the world in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, people were discovering the record and falling in love.
Unknown in America, and getting on with his life, Rodriguez was slowly becoming a sensation far from home, and would eventually embark on a few small-scale tours in Australia in 1979 and 1981.
From then on, his life became a mystery drenched in rumors that he wasin a mental institution, jail, or no longer living.
In 1996, journalist Craig Batholemew found Rodriguez alive and well, living in Detroit. Rodriguez had no idea that he had become a cult icon in South Africa. “Cold Fact” had gone multi-platinum there without Rodriguez receiving a cent in royalties. Finally made aware of his fame, Sixto toured South Africa, filling massive 5,000 capacity venues.
Despite his rise to fame elsewhere in the world, Rodriguez is still relatively unknown in America, but Light in the Attic is looking to change that, by releasing his cd to a new audience.
Last night, Sixto Rodriguez performed for the first time ever in New York—only his second proper gig in North America (early in his career he would only play at "hooker bars, inner city dives, and biker bars”).
The respectful crowd at Joe’s Pub knew they were there to see something special. The 66 year old Rodriguez showed his age in his less than nimble walk onto the stage, but not in his playing. Rodriguez and his band performed the songs with the same immense level of magic as on the 1970 record. The mellow, vivid lyrical folk treasures “Crucify Your Mind,” “Sugar Man,” and “Forget It” were particularly moving, especially in the intimate setting.
It’s taken a very, very long time, but Sixto Rodriguez is finally beginning to receive the attention he deserves for writing one of the finest albums of its time. And after the long path taken to get to this point, it’s quite apparent that he is incredibly humble and appreciative for all of it.
DOWNLOAD: Rodriguez – "Sugar Man" (mp3)
Rumor has it, Rodriguez will be playing an unspecified private event tonight.