Rock'n'roll's ultimate late bloomer

ELLE HUNT
Last updated 11:24 16/03/2013
Rodriguez
CRAIG SIMCOX/Fairfax NZ

SUCCESS IS SWEET: Sixto Rodriguez is in Wellington for a one-off concert as part of a world tour.

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Sixto Rodriguez' path to fame has been haphazard, to say the least.

Forty years ago, the Detroit musician's two folk-rock albums sold a handful of copies; tonight, he is playing a sold-out show at TSB Arena in Wellington as part of a world tour.

Rodriguez, 70, was propelled into the spotlight by Searching For Sugar Man, an Academy Award-winning documentary about the surprise success of his albums in South Africa while he was working as a manual labourer in Detroit, and the subsequent revival of his musical career.

His cult figure status in South Africa and the film have taken him on a journey he never thought possible.

"I'm experiencing something that I don't even think was in the equation at the time.

"I thought I was going to sell some albums, and then I was going to play bigger rooms, but nothing global like this."

The documentary featured in the Wellington International Film Festival last year, and last month won the Academy Award for best documentary.

Rodriguez is quick to point out, though, that he had nothing to do with Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul's film.

"I'm in it eight minutes. I didn't have any say over who X interviewed, where he went, what they said. . . . [But] it put me on the map."

And his path is all the more unusual given his age, Rodriguez said.

"I'm a solid 70 . . . I'm not getting old, I'm getting dead. That it happened to me at such a late stage . . . there's no blueprint for success in rock'n'roll."

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