Rodriguez: Forgotten in America, exalted in South Africa

A singer from 1960s and ’70s Detroit, Sixto Diaz Rodriguez had some of the lyric quality of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, but a voice like James Taylor. Cold Fact, his debut album, layered his aching voice over Motown horns and strings.

Though there was plenty of buildup, Cold Fact never became a hit in the United States. But bootlegged copies made the album — and the singer — a legend in a South Africa in ferment over apartheid.

Many stories had circulated that he had killed himself a long time ago, but his first album had become a kind of anthem against apartheid for many in South Africa.

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When Rodriguez did his first performance in South Africa, the crowd went crazy. His first words on stage: « Thanks for keeping me alive  »

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