By definition, cult heroes exist outside the consciousness of the general public. They don’t, however, tend to escape the grasp of their own consciousness, but that is exactly what happened in the case of Sixto Diaz Rodriguez. Known simply as Rodriguez, the Detroit-born psychedelic folk singer had no idea that he even had fans until he was well into 50s. What’s more, his fans were much more than just casual listeners. They were devoted followers half a world away who used his music as a rally cry for revolution and the anthems of the working class. So, what happened?
After releasing two albums (Cold Fact in 1970 and Coming From Reality in 1971) to unenthusiastic reviews and subsequently poor sales, Rodriguez was dropped from his label. Thinking his days of making music were behind him, Rodriguez carried on with life, becoming involved with such disciplines as philosophy, education, and politics; all the while remaining loyal to his working class roots.
As the idea of becoming a professional musician faded from his dreams, he was actually becoming nothing short of a legend in far away lands. The popularity of Rodriguez’s music grew by word of mouth in countries like Rhodesia, Australia, New Zealand and, especially South Africa, where the political subject matter of his songs struck a very personal chord with listeners.
Even after his debut album went multi-platinum in South Africa, Rodriguez remained completely unaware of the impact that his music was having on listeners around the world, as well as completely uncompensated for his work. It was only in 1998, when his daughter happened to find an internet fansite devoted to him that Rodriguez was presented with the idea that he was actually—finally—a star.
After a highly successful tour of the African nation, a feature documentary created in his honor, and one of his songs being used by DJ David Holmes, Rodriguez became recognized as a musical icon in his home country decades after his musical debut. Looking back, it’s hard to understand why his music didn’t make the critics’ cut back in the 70s, especially since his urban folk sound is commonly compared to such respected artists as Bob Dylan, Love’s Arthur Lee, Donovan, and Tim Buckley.
As you might imagine, we at True Endeavors are extremely honored and excited to bring Rodriguez to Madison! He’ll take the stage at the High Noon Saloon this Friday, April 10th. Grab your tickets here, and experience the music of this highly talented, intelligent and influential artist.
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