Rodriguez has emerged as one of the hottest musicians touring the world. Having a mostly unsuccessful music career in the U.S. in the 1970s, his music became a beacon of hope against apartheid in South Africa, propelling him to rock star status. However, Rodriguez was unaware of his popularity outside of the U.S. and lived a very different life as a construction worker in Detroit while his fan base grew thousands of miles across the world. Because of the efforts of a few dedicated South Africans who rediscovered Rodriguez, and a Swedish first-time film director Malik Bendjelloul, Rodriguez’s story has been told to millions of fans in the Academy Award- winning documentary “Searching for Sugar Man.” See Rodriguez at The Theatre at the Frank Erwin Center, Saturday, May 4!
Here are some fun facts about the mysterious man and the mystifying life he lives.
- In an effort to increase his marketability in the late 1960s, a local producer decided to change Rodriguez to “Rod Riguez.”
- While Rodriguez is noted for his popularity in South Africa, Australians actually discovered his music first. His 1970 album “Cold Fact” went cold in the U.S. but was discovered in Australia by DJ Holger Brockman. When Australian concert promoters tracked Rodriguez to Detroit in the late 1970s, he played a 15-date tour across Australia.
- Upon his rediscovery in 1998 by very dedicated South African fans, Rodriguez’s album “Cold Fact” was re-released in the U.S. His American popularity has soared with “Searching for Sugar Man,” and Rodriguez has grown from a singer in a smoky bar to playing major arenas around the world, including the Frank Erwin Center!
- Despite all of this success, Rodriguez still lives in the same house where he has lived for the past 40 years. His daughters describe him as living a “Spartan lifestyle,” not even owning a cell phone until a few years ago. They forced him to get one after they became tired of always searching the streets of their Detroit neighborhood for their father.
- Director Malik Bendjelloul was inspired to direct Rodriguez’s story because of the influence of the Orson Welles’ masterpiece film “Citizen Kane.” Much like how Welles portrayed the life of Charles Foster Kane through the lens of a journalist discovering Kane’s life story, Bendjelloul wanted his film to follow the journey of South African “Sugar Man” fans investigating the cold case behind Rodriguez.
- When Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, the two South African fans who searched for years for the illusive Rodriguez, called the musician’s Detroit residence to find out if he was still alive, Rodriguez immediately hung up the phone. Believing it was a prank call, Rodriguez did not want to take part in this joke. But Segerman and Strydom persisted and connected with Rodriguez, telling him, “In South Africa, [Cold Fact]’s more famous than ‘Abbey Road’.”
- While Rodriguez has been in the limelight recently, he hasn’t released a new album since 1971’s “Coming From Reality.” Rodriguez is due for a new release, and he’s been working on new material!
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