The Cold Facts...
South African Tour 1998
On 6th March1998, when Sixto Rodriguez walks out on to the stage at the BellvilleVelodrome for his first South African performance, a 25-year-old mysterywill end and a new story will begin. This will be "the answer that,makes the questions disappear".
The mystery that will be solved is: what ever happened to Rodriguez, theartist who recorded the cult album 'Cold Fact'that has been so hugely popular in South Africa since 1971? There havebeen so many rumours and urban legends all these years. Stories that hewas dead, blind and imprisoned have all proved to be false. The simpletruth is that nothing happened to Rodriguez. South Africans didn't knowwhere he was and he barely knew where South Africa was. He knew of Australiaand his fans there because he had successfully toured there in 1979 andagain in 1981. Since then he had continued his full and varied existencein his hometown and birthplace, Detroit, Michigan. He had raised threedaughters, Eva, Sandra and Regan, received a BA Philosophy degree fromWayne State University, travelled around America with a North America Indiantribe and stood as a candidate for public office on numerous occasions,including for the position of mayor of Detroit.
His four recorded albums,'ComingFrom Reality (After The Fact)','Cold Fact','TheBest Of Rodriguez' and 'Rodriguez Alive',continued to sell consistently and were eventually released on CD, withthe exception of the 'Alive' album. This was a recording made on his 1979Australian tour which received a one-year-only limited vinyl releasein Australia and is therefore very scarce and collectable.
Besideshis continuing success in South Africa and Australasia, however, Rodriguezis virtually unknown in the USA, England and Europe. It was the ex-SouthAfricans who left their homeland in the '70s and '80s who spread the wordabout these albums in these areas. If`is hoped that even though Rodriguezis now well into his 50s, the success of this South African tour will kick-starthis belated but deserved career in the USA and Europe. Tours to Australasiaand Canada are being considered, as is the possibility of some new recordedmaterial as well as a live CD from the SouthAfrican Tour.
The revival in Rodriguez's career happened as a result ofthe South African release on CD of his debut album 'Coming From Reality(After The Fact)'. The liner notes that accompanied this CD raised thequestion of what had happened to Rodriguez and whether there were any "musicologistdetectives" out there who felt motivated enough to find out. Well,there was one in Johannesburg and Craig Bartholomew immediately began hisone-year search that resulted in him locating and speaking to Rodriguezin August 1997. At the same time, contact was made with Rodriguez's daughterEva through an Internet websitethat had been established to try and find the missing artist. Soon Rodriguezbecame very aware of South Africa and the large cult following that heenjoyed there as well as the thousands of his CDs that were still beingsold there year after year. At this stage Rodriguez himself did not havecopies of his own albums; all he had was a copy of 'Cold Fact' on a reel-to-reeltape!
InOctober 1997, Rodriguez, who is a very private and reserved person, wasdescribed by his daughter Eva as follows: "My father is in great healthphysically and mentally. In my eyes, he is ageless, creative, strong, intellectualand different. He has kept his hand and his mind on the music, living asurprisingly average and somewhat alternative life. He has raised threedaughters, labored, got an education, ran for political office and paysdues and debts like the rest of us."
News of his discovery and impending tour was receivedwith a sense of amazement and disbelief by his many fans in South Africa.Nothing short of the news of a joint tour by Elvis Presley and Jim Morrisoncould have aroused such a reaction. Well, Rodriguez is very much aliveand living in Detroit and now, 27 years after his music first appearedin South Africa, he is performing in this country. We South Africans havebeen privileged to witness many awe-inspiring and wondrous political, musicaland sporting events during the past few years. We have witnessed concertsby some of the biggest names in contemporary music. However, this tourmust surely rate as one of the most unexpected and eagerly-anticipatedmusical events ever in our history. It is with great pleasure we SouthAfricans welcome Sixto Rodriguez to our country.
- Stephen "Sugar" Segerman