Sunday Life magazine, Sunday 8th March 1998
Return of the Sugarman
Proving that rumours of his death have been greatly exaggerated, Rodriguez performed live for Cape Town audiences this weekend. The original 'Sugar Man' took old fans on a nostalgia trip and acquainted new aficionados - many of whom were still in nappies when he first hit local turntables - with the seamy, syrupy cynicism of 'I Wonder' and the spooky surrealism of 'Rich Folks' Hoax' ('The moon...is hanging...in the purple...sky...'). Rodriguez was born in Detroit on 10 July 1942 (sun Cancerian - no wonder he's shrouded in mystery). It was during the '70s that Rodriguez unknowingly linked lovers of mainstream pop with devotees of anything that wasn't played on local radio stations - but only in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Zimbabwe (he's had numerous re-releases in Australia and South Africa, and has toured Australia twice). Everywhere else in the world, no-one had heard of him and his music, and no-one cared. Here, however, Rodriguez's hauntingly nasal voice, hard-core lyrics and twangy guitar riffs appealed to everyone from housewives to Hendrix hopheads. His 'straighter' fans may have innocently taken his references to jumpers, coke, sweet Mary Jane to mean articles of clothing, soft drinks and the girl next door, but that didn't stop them playing his music - and loving it.
After the pop star sank from sight in the early '80s, it was over a decade before any attempt was made to find him again - and that by South African 'music detectives' Craig Bartholow and Stephen 'Sugar' (no kidding) Segerman. Almost a year after the search began, involving hundreds of faxes, phone calls, letters and e-mails, they tracked down the musician in 1997 and let him know that he still had a following in South Africa, and that his fans were aching to see him perforrn.
Dedicated fans can find all the details on 'The Great Rodriguez Hunt' website and general information on Brian Currin's Timeline. The Sugar Man values his privacy, so the cold facts on Rodriguez are few. We know he was born in Detroit, that has two daughters and that he holds degree in philosophy - and if you want to know more, make sure you get tickets for his remaining concerts, Joburg and Durban.