The Zen of Toiling in Obscurity and Exploding Into Stardom

The story of the enigmatic Detroiter who came to intrigue the nation won the Oscar for best documentary in the 2013 Academy Awards ceremony.

“Rodriguez isn’t here tonight, because he didn’t want to take any of the credit himself and that just about says everything about that man and his story that you’d want to know,” said “Sugar Man” producer Simon Chinn while accepting the award.

A few weeks back, fellow Detroiter Joanne McNary wrote about the man and his story:

By now, you’ve heard we have a world renowned poet and singer living in our midst here in Detroit. If you haven’t I want to introduce you to this extraordinary Detroiter.

His name is Sixto Rodriguez and he’s the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, “Searching for Sugarman.”

I love stories, telling them and hearing them.  It’s an art form especially beloved in Detroit.

And this documentary soars – as Rodriguez’s story is so mind-bendingly implausible that you couldn’t make it up.

Rodriguez in Detroit, early 70's.

Sixto Rodriguez in Detroit, early 70’s.

In short, although dwelling in obscurity in Detroit, he became bigger than Elvis in the country of South Africa at the height of apartheid – when the suppressive government basically closed off the country to the rest of the world.

And best yet, Sixto Rodriguez had no idea of his fame.

He became an icon for decades because his music resonated with the people who were trying to change things.  Unbeknownst to him, he sold close to a million records and cd’s in South Africa.

But mostly no one knew anything about him here.

Why should we even care about Sixto Rodriguez?

His is a story of undiscovered talent, limitless perseverance and astounding humility. His voice is enthralling; his lyrics are poetry.  Take a listen:

Youtube: Sugar Man by Sixto Rodriguez


The internet is teeming with reviews, features and videos about the film and the man.  Here are a few of my favorites:

On Rodriguez’ allegiance to Detroit – He’s our hometown boy

Why Searching for Sugarman should win the Oscar – I’ll be cheering him on on Twitter – Great Sugar Tweets

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so “uplifted” after watching a movie. And for us in Detroit, the nomination of this film for best documentary offers an especially delicious facet to watching the Academy Awards (on February 24th).

Just knowing about “Sugarman” has made my life sweeter. Scoop out a little sugar for yourself.




About Joanne

Joanne McNary qualifies as having a full-on case of “Detroit-itis,” a condition characterized by swooning at the sight of new business openings, cheering on women leaders and going gaga over local theatre. She grew up in the city and found her way back four years ago - now dwelling in downtown. Joanne's "Deeply Detroit" blog highlights Detroit's crazy patchwork of neighborhoods percolating with the miracles that are breathing new life into the city. She revels always in the warmth of her family. Her children, their spouses and one spectacular granddaughter are her treasures. In Joanne's mind, Twitter rules. Follow her on @DetroitRocks.

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