Fans, friends, family remember Detroit musician Sixto Rodriguez at memorial service

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Detroit — To the world, Sixto Diaz Rodriguez was an international musician, with a footprint that stretched from Detroit to Australia, to New Zealand, South Africa and beyond.

For two people at a memorial service in honor of Rodriguez on Saturday at the Majestic Theatre in Detroit, he was a humble, loving dad.

Sandra Rodriguez-Kennedy, 58, of Detroit, and her younger sister Regan Rodriguez-Barachkov, 44, of Oxford, said their father “stayed true to the arts, to the humanities and to the plight of people in poverty,” and was one who “spoke up” as an activist for issues of police brutality, civil rights and social oppression.

“He was almost generous to a fault,” said Rodriguez-Kennedy, Rodriguez’s middle daughter of three. “As his daughters, we’d be like ‘are you sure?’ But we’d always do what he wanted. … For people to remember that and want to give him a final ‘thank you’ means so much.”

Claudia Leo, 50, of Ann Arbor, a friend of Sixto Rodriguez, takes photos of a memorial in his honor inside the Majestic Theatre August 12, 2023, in Detroit.

On Saturday, hundreds gathered at the theater, 3711 Woodward Ave., to share stories, enjoy music and honor the memory of the celebrated Motor City singer, who rose to fame after being featured in an Academy Award-winning documentary.

“Today’s been a really great outpouring of support, and to hear all the stories of folks that met and experienced him … is amazing,” said Rodriguez-Barachkov, the musician’s youngest daughter.

Rodriguez, the subject of the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” died Tuesday night at his longtime home in Detroit’s Woodbridge neighborhood. He was 81.

Sixto Rodriguez performs at the Crofoot in Pontiac on Nov. 2, 2012.

The documentary traced the singer-songwriter’s remarkable journey from obscurity to international success that he achieved decades after he recorded two albums in Detroit in the early 1970s.

“Sugar Man” is the title of one of Rodriguez’s songs, which describes the perils of addiction. It is one of the songs that helped him gain a huge following in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand — a popularity he learned about years afterward.

Dawn Tocco, left, of Detroit and Shannon Tonjes of Harrison Township view memorabilia, awards and photos on display Aug. 12, 2023, at the Majestic Theatre during a public memorial for Detroit musician Sixto Rodriguez, known as the "Sugar Man," who died this past week.

“Rodriguez’s music was known all over the world. That restores my faith in the idea of ‘what you seek is also seeking you,’ and he sought it will all his heart and it just came together in the right time,” Rodriguez-Kennedy said.

Although he was recognized later on in his career, Rodriguez-Barachkov said it was a “sweet victory” for her father “because, you know, in the beginning (of his career), we judge people here in America by if they make any money or not,” she noted. “He went from walking to the bus to ending up on someone’s private jet. It was nice to see the transformation for someone who really earned it,” she added.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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