Sixto Rodriguez, the Detroit native whose story was told in Searching for Sugar Man, has passed away at the age of 81.
The singer-songwriter’s official website confirmed the unfortunate news via a brief message, noting only that the musician (who was known professionally as Rodriguez) had “passed away earlier” on the 9th.
At the time of this piece’s writing, neither Rodriguez’s family nor his team had publicly disclosed the “I Wonder” and “Establishment Blues” artist’s cause of death. But the individual behind Coming from Reality (1971) had been grappling with health troubles throughout 2023, according to updates posted on his website.
Nevertheless, local outlets reported that Rodriguez had appeared at a birthday celebration in his hometown upon turning 81 in July. During the event, though, the “Crucify Your Mind” vocalist departed early in his private limo due to “the heat and humidity,” per Grosse Pointe News.
In the 1970s, Rodriguez’s work achieved major commercial success in Australia (where he toured multiple times) and African nations including South Africa. And following a number of years of humble living outside the media spotlight, the “Sugar Man” creator learned of his continued reach in South Africa (where fans knew little about him despite the considerable popularity of his music) in the late 1990s.
Fan messages and tributes about Rodriguez’s passing are being published on his website, while different supporters yet are celebrating the artist’s life on social media.
“Such sad news,” wrote Searching for Sugar Man producer and Lightbox co-founder Simon Chinn. “He was a true legend, and it was an honour to know him. What a privilege to be able to share his amazing story with the world. RIP Rodriguez – your music will live forever.”
“I’m so sorry to hear about Sixto Rodriguez,” penned The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. “He toured with us in 2015, and he was a very talented and nice man. Love & Mercy to Sixto’s family and friends.”
“Rodriguez sang about the beauty and power of the overlooked people that were all around him,” said Johannesburg-born Dave Matthews, whose band has covered “Sugar Man” during several shows. “They were the heroes of his songs. He sang about the city, the poor, the hustler and the hustled, the dealer and the addict. He also made you want to fight for a better world. He sang up from the bottom. I love him.”