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Legendary singer Rodriguez dies aged 81

Musician Sixto Rodriguez, the central figure of the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” has passed away at the age of 81.

Rodriguez initiated his musical journey in 1967, encountering initial struggles to achieve recognition within the US. Consequently, he was dropped by his record label. Nevertheless, his music gradually gained a devoted following overseas, particularly in South Africa and Australia, where his records achieved considerable sales and airtime.

Despite his music’s popularity, Rodriguez remained relatively unknown in his home country, and erroneous rumors circulated claiming he had taken his own life onstage in the 1970s. Contrary to these rumors, Rodriguez was alive and well, residing in Detroit and working in construction.

Unaware of his international acclaim, Rodriguez’s popularity abroad had roots in bootlegged copies of his album “Cold Fact,” which became an unofficial anthem during youth protests against apartheid in South Africa.

It wasn’t until 1997, when Rodriguez’s eldest daughter, Eva, stumbled upon a dedicated website, that he learned about his success in South Africa. This discovery prompted Rodriguez’s inaugural South African tour in the late 1990s. The Mexican-American singer and guitarist performed to packed arenas and later extended his tour to Australia.

In 2012, the Oscar-winning documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” documented the journey of two South African fans tracking down Rodriguez. The film’s release triggered a resurgence in his career, leading to renewed touring and recording activities.

The success of the documentary also revived Rodriguez’s albums from the early 1970s, “Cold Fact” and “Coming From Reality,” propelling them to global recognition decades after their initial release. Rodriguez went on to perform at prominent festivals like Coachella and Glastonbury.

Rodriguez’s official website released a statement conveying the sad news of his passing, extending condolences to his family. The cause of his death was not disclosed.

Simon Chinn, producer of “Searching for Sugar Man,” expressed his grief, hailing Rodriguez as a “true legend” whose music will endure. South African musician David Scott, known as The Kiffness, lauded Rodriguez’s remarkable life story and unique impact on South African fans.

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