Archive for August, 2012

Detroit’s Sixto Rodriguez

August 8, 2012

I’m walking down Forest, between Trumbull and Third.  In the distance, I see an unusual figure.  As he gets closer, I see that the unusual shape of this person is due to a guitar, which he’s carrying on his back (or over his shoulder).  As he gets closer still, I see it’s none other than Mr. Sixto Rodriguez.  I make my hellos, then we both go on our way.

I’m a walker.  I don’t drive.  I’ve ran into Rodriguez quite a bit.  He’s a walker too.  He’s been a vital part of the downtown Detroit scene for years.  I used to run into the late Howard Armstrong (aka Louie Bluie) too.  Walkers!

I remember when Cold Fact first came out.  They used to play it on the local, Detroit alternative FM station, WABX.  I have an issue of BIG FAT magazine, circa 1970.  Jimi Hendrix is on the cover.  He’d just died.  Inside is an ad reading RODRIGUEZ FOR COMMON COUNCIL.  I’m sure it’s the same Rodriguez.  He ran for Detroit’s City Council, right?  If I find the ad, I’ll scan it and add it here.

I didn’t hear of him for a while.  In 1992, I moved down to the Cass Corridor/ Cultural Center neighborhood.  Rodriguez was very much on the scene.  He’d always help with the street fair, the Dally in the Alley.  He talked me into helping take the stage down in 2000.   Despite my having health problems, I pitched in.  He was also active with “my tribe” on Fourth Street.  He’d help with the stages and with the cleanup the next day.

In the late 1990’s, he was telling me stories about playing big shows in South Africa.  I believed him.  I soon had proof though.  The Detroit Public Library had a copy of his “live in South Africa” CD Live Fact.  It seems to have gone missing.  At the time though, I checked it out and enjoyed hearing it.

He’s played shows in Detroit, over the years.  For a long time, it was like a “rare treat'” to hear him play.   Since his two early 1970’s records were re-issued on CD, he’s been performing here a lot more often.  I hope that the new documentary film brings his music to a wider audience.  It seems to be doing so thus far, early on.  As of this writing, I’ve not seen it yet.

Once, I was about to leave a Chinese Food takeout restaurant.  He was just coming in at the same time.  They were playing some curious but cool “Oriental pop music.”  Rodriguez commented “Yeah, I really like this music!”  Enthusiastic!