Sixto Diaz Rodriguez – aka Sugarman – has sadly died at the age of 81.
The Mexican-American singer songwriter was hugely successful in South Africa during the ’70s, but never knew it… until a documentary – Searching for Sugarman – was made in 2012 in which two South Africans set out to discover what had happened to their musical hero. There had been rumours that the rock ‘n roller had committed suicide.
The truth was almost as sad. They found him alive, but struggling. He had never known about his success in SA and had never received any royalties. Thanks to the documentary and the subsequent international attention he received, Rodriguez reportedly finally received his royalties a year ago.
On Tuesday (8 August 2023), the website Sugarman.org posted a message saying:
“It is with great sadness that we at Sugarman.org announce that Sixto Diaz Rodriguez has passed away earlier today. We extend our most heartfelt condolences to his daughters – Sandra, Eva and Regan – and to all his family. Rodriguez was 81 years old. May His Dear Soul Rest In Peace.”
His Cold Fact album, released in 1971 and featuring the track ‘Sugarman’, became the soundtrack for many 1970s and 1980s youth in South Africa. Most music lovers around the world had not heard of Rodriguez until Searching for Sugar Man resurrected his voice for a new audience from California to China, and won several awards including Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
Last month, on 10 July, the South Africans who started the search wished Rodriguez a happy birthday and reported he was recovering from recent health issues. Brian Currins said: “It has now been 25 years since we first met Rodriguez and his family when they arrived in Cape Town in March 1998 for the first of his six concerts around South Africa. It was then that we had all our questions answered about this incredible artist, including his birth date and what he had been doing since mostly disappearing following the release of his two albums.”
On 13 July, Rodriguez made his last public performance – singing songs like ‘I Wonder’ at a birthday celebration show that had been organised in his honour in Detroit, USA. A packed out audience sang Happy Birthday to him.
Today South Africans paid tribute, with one Western Cape resident saying: “Sixto Rodriguez… Sugarman – Epitome of a Legend. Your music got us through so many good times and bad…. What a privilege to have watched you perform a few years back at Grandwest here in Cape Town. May your Beautiful Soul Rest in Eternal Peace.” Another added: “What a life story this man leaves behind! Always loved his music. RIP.”
Thank you for the music.