New York (AFP) – Sixto Rodriguez, the once obscure American singer-songwriter who found a career renaissance after his music developed a cult following abroad, has died at the age of 81, according to his website.
“It is with great sadness that we at Sugarman.org announce that Sixto Diaz Rodriguez has passed away” on Tuesday, the statement read, without providing a cause of death for the singer, whose hits included “Sugar Man” and “I Wonder.”
Born July 10, 1942 in Detroit to Mexican-American parents, Rodriguez worked on assembly lines while moonlighting as a musician, putting out two albums in the 1970s: “Cold Fact” and “Coming From Reality.”
By most metrics they bombed stateside, and Rodriguez quit the music industry and lived a quiet, working-class life in Detroit.
The musician had no idea that his music, and in particular “Sugar Man,” found a massive following throughout apartheid-era South Africa as well as New Zealand and Australia.
That he was not a public presence fueled fan beliefs that Rodriguez was dead.
But a group of fans tracked him down online, and he played a 1998 South African tour to sold-out arenas.
The remarkable story was immortalized in a 2012 documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” which went on to win an Oscar as well as give Rodriguez belated success in the United States and a music career resurgence.