Obscurity is the path of least resistance…towards art


Papers in Capetown wrote Sixto (pronounced “seesto”) Rodriguez, a folk-singing songwriter, off as a self immolator. His legend brewed up in the form of tea-leaf anecdotes which included a successful suicide at his last (obviously) concert in South Africa… the last stand of a genius musician…the creator of  Cold Fact, perhaps the most influential album during the overthrow of apartheid. Then twenty years later strangers from across the world came looking for him on the internet, via his daughter,  to catch him up on all the news.

Until uncovering his own mythology, Rodriguez led a simple life by any examination. A self-described musical-political (he ran for various offices eight times in Michigan), a man for “peace, prosperity, and maybe a little bit of justice” who also described the middle-class as an “arsenal of democracy”… no wonder the world lost track of the guy. He could’ve cared less about his ‘failing’ music career because his day in day out trudge of demolition work offered him purpose…he still sleeps in a house kept warm by a wood burning stove, fueled by supplications of cardboard & plastic nonsense. Construction kept him fed. Philosophy kept his mind hungry (he received a degree after putting down the guitar). He meandered and steadied himself through the 80’s in Detroit (aside from a couple of Australian concerts, a place he was aware of his fame), clueless to the Cinderalla ‘aspect’ that his life was taking on…clueless to the musical conscience of South Africa.

Apartheid not only unjustly segregated along color-lines, it seperated from within. White Afrikanners who supported the evil policies kept away from liberal minded flower-children’s children who supported equality & the preservation of human dignity. At the time Copywrite law was (and still is) extremely convoluted. An African label earned the rights to his album Cold Fact & distributed the sounds of ‘Establishment Blues’ and ‘Crucify Your Mind’ far-and-wide over the southern edge of the continent. These O’Leary grandchildren embraced Sixto’s anti-establishment messages…it was the Beatles first, then Rodriguez. They transformed his energy into their own movement.

An eternal archetype, a life-preserver for the human experience, the People’s Poet searches beyond the hate & the angst & that feeling that God abandoned us to the gutters… a dark-skin’d warrior-child of the streets. Sixto’s picture suggests a Mayan priest, chewing betel on the subways muttering ghetto aphorisms to his scrappy dog. No wonder a soldier in the Afrikanner Army once told Rodriguez, “We made love to your music, we made war to your music.” There is both beauty and death in the dark places. It takes a miracle-1-in-a-1,000,000,000.000 psyche to explore them correctly.

Rodriguez is not only anti-establishment (granted the establishment needs a fixin’), but he is anti-ego. You would think a guy who sold millions of copies and didn’t see a dime might be somewhat, ornery…or fucking livid…but it doesn’t seem to move him an inch…at least from what he has publicly revealed. I hope the money gets back to him, to his daughters, but I think his peace over the whole issue comes from a satisfaction that any artist can empathize with…he was able to affect people for positive effects. And not just people…an entire nation bound by old-dogma, dipped in lies & corruption & violence…and that old dogma fell, with Rodriguez playing an active part in the coup.

At the end of the journey the money stays behind. What Sixto earned he will carry forever on his celestial dance. Listen to him while you still can.


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