'Sugar Man' Rodriguez comes to Tampa

May 9, 2013 

It's one of the most fascinating music stories ever.

Sixto Rodriguez, who recorded under the name Rodriguez (and at one point even Rod Riguez), made a couple of folk-flavored albums back in the early '70s that no one paid attention to. He gave up on music and went back to blue-collar obscurity.

He had no idea he had become a mythic counterculture hero in South Africa.

Some documentary filmmakers found out Rodriguez was living in Detroit. Their 2012 film "Searching for Sugar Man" won the Oscar for best documentary and brought Rodriguez back into music. He's working on his third album, the first since "Coming From Reality" 42 years ago.

He'll appear May 9 at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.

There's been a debate in recent weeks about the film's accuracy. Critics say it exaggerated Rodriguez's popularity in South Africa and his obscurity in the years since. The film didn't mention, for instance, that he had some hits in Australia and New Zealand in the '70s and '80s and toured with Midnight Oil.

But the backstory and the debate have little to do with his music, which is intelligent, distinctive and extremely pleasing. And "Sugar Man" story aside, he's a 70-something former construction worker who's nearly blind and has suddenly become a pop star. That's a pretty good story right there.

The show's nearly sold out so if you want to go, buy tickets soon.

Details: 8 p.m. May 9, Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. Tickets: $35.50 plus service charge and up. Information: 813-229-7827 or strazcenter.org.

-- Marty Clear

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