17 September 2012


Sixto Diaz Rodriguez’s debut album, Cold Fact, was released in the USA in March 1970, with the powerful Sugar Man as the first track. The album had poor sales in the US, but had high sales in South Africa and Australia. The album was released in 1971 in South Africa by A&M Records. In 1998 Cold Fact was awarded a platinum disc in South Africa. The follow-up album in November 1971, Coming From Reality, also had poor sales, and in 1974 the singer disappeared from the music scene. Unbeknown to him, he was already a superstar in South Africa. In 1991, Cold Fact and Coming From Reality were re-released in South Africa on compact disc. Cold Fact sold more than 500 000 copies. Rodriguez never saw a cent in royalties, and was living as a manual labourer in Detroit. In 1997, two South African fans, Stephen Segerman, a music shop owner, and journalist Craig Bartholomew Strydom, convinced him to tour South Africa in 1998. He played six concerts. A documentary about the tour, Dead Men Don't Tour: Rodriguez in South Africa 1998, was screened on SABC TV in 2001. He toured South Africa again in 2001 and 2005. In 1998, his signature song, Sugar Man, was covered by the South African rock band Just Jinjer.

Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul filmed a documentary, Searching for Sugar Man, which was recently released in South Africa. It has been a hit at international film festivals, premiering at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. It tells the story of the two South African fans looking for him.

Rodriguez is the son of Mexican immigrants who left Mexico in the 1920s. He was born in Detroit, the sixth child in the family. He married Rayma, who is part Cherokee. They were high school sweethearts, who both dropped out of school when Rayma fell pregnant. They had two daughters, Eva and Sandra. He worked at various jobs - in a steel factory and a linen factory, bricklayer and trench digger. Later on he was able to complete a philosophy degree at Wayne State University. He ran for city councillor seven times. His second wife is Konny, mother of his daughter Regan.

Eva (photo credit: George Herald)
His first-born daughter, Eva Alice Rodriguez Koller (49), lives in Wilderness Heights, on South Africa's Garden Route. After high school, Eva joined the US Army. As a child she had accompanied her parents to anti-war protests. Her father was so unhappy with her joining up, that it was her mother who had to sign her consent forms. Eva served in the Medical Corps and was trained as a combat medic. Her exposure to helicopters led to an interest in flying, and she was selected for flight training in 1987. She flew a variety of helicopters, including Hueys and Black Hawks. She served in the USA, Korea, Puerto Rico, Columbia, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Eva served in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the Gulf War. She got involved in arranging her father's concerts in South Africa, and accompanied him to Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. After her son Ethan was born, she continued with her military career for a while, before resigning three weeks after the World Trade Centre tragedy as a Chief Warrant Officer III and moving to Wilderness Heights where she home-schools her son. She has become a traditional healer, and was one of the first white women to undergo a sangoma ritual at Mdantsane, near East London. She is writing a book, tracing her military career, as well as a book about her father's life.

Her first book, The Circle of Love, encourages children to enjoy a spiritual awareness of nature. It was adapted an arts intervention project for children at the Good Hope Seminary Junior School in Cape Town. The children participated in drama, drumming, singing, puppetry, poetry, dance, wardrobe, design and art. In May 2009 it was performed at the George Society of the Arts Theatre during the Amateur Arts Festival, and Eva received a nomination for Best Performance, and Certificates of Merit for Best Novice Director and Most Original Script.