By Ally Christos
In South Africa he was more popular than the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley alike, but half way across the world Sixto Rodriguez was a man of very few fortunes- oblivious to any fame.
To many South Africans living in the 1970s Rodriguez’s album “Cold Fact” was the soundtrack to their lives. His music served as the voice to the anti-apartheid movement, inspiring the fight for liberation amongst many black and white people alike. His flair for exposing truth in its most pure form was something that South Africans needed at the time, and which I believe, is something we still need today.
From its gripping lyrics and incredible range, to its excellent production and humbling qualities, the cold fact is that “Cold Fact” is unquestionably the greatest album ever produced!
You may be wondering why I would write something on an icon in the 1970’s. It’s old, outdated, and to put the cherry on top I wasn’t even born then so my facts aren’t even firsthand. Well that’s the great and magical thing about Rodriguez and his music. It’s timeless. It doesn’t matter who you are, when you were born or where you come from, his music will always be relatable and inspiring to everyone, in every circumstance.
It was this year when watching the touching documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” (which is a must see for everyone reading this post) that Rodriguez’s music came alive for me. His story is what made the music so much more real. He had been working as a construction worker for years in Detroit, where his album had failed miserably, completely unaware of his stardom in South Africa. I was shocked how deeply his story had touched me, in front of me stood a man who had been cheated out of a life of fortune and fame, but who made the decision to still remain humble and separated from the materialization and commercialization of the music industry.
Rodriguez is certainly a rare songwriter with the extraordinary ability to encapsulate an entire new world of emotion through two simple, but potent lyrical lines. “Cold Fact” is a buildup of beautiful classical instruments accompanied with a singer whose hypnotic voice has a presence strong enough to silence crowds. Together, they create a symphony of music so tender, so unique, that you can’t help but embrace it with every inch of your body.
From the tongue-in-cheek lightheartedness of I Wonder to the the rawness of Crucify Your Mind, the songs are full of insight into city life in America. Ironically, however, they touched the hearts of those struggling in South Africa, and brought about a purpose to fight for liberation. Today, with the rerelease of his album “Cold Fact” we are blessed enough to still have this fantastic man’s music in our lives. And for me, discovering this album now is like finding buried treasure – a gem that you’d never expected to hear, remaining as perceptive and rich in wisdom now as it was in the 1970s.