Last night on 60 Minutes, shone their spotlight on one of rock and roll’s most mysterious and rewarding stories: the rock icon who didn’t know it, Rodriguez. Rodriguez spun out two records in rapid succession — Cold Fact in 1970 and Coming From Reality in 1971 — and when neither hit, he retired to a life of day laboring in his native Detroit. Meanwhile, his yarns about inner-city struggle and anti-establishment took hold in South Africa, where his music resonated particularly with the rising anti-apartheid movement and where it was assumed he was dead. And so unassuming all the while, he was more popular than The Beatles and Elvis halfway around the world, because “Well, I just wasn’t meant to be so lucky … then,” he says.
He has since been resurrected as an artist, performing for the first time in South Africa and sharing his story in Searching for Sugar Man, a Sundance-selected documentary about his life and supposed-death. These days he’s something of a phenomenon, playing first on Letterman and then on VH1’s own Big Morning Buzz Live (above), and embarking on his first nationwide tour and selling records, to boot.
What’s amazing about the 60 Minutes interview is how humble he is. Speaking with reporter Bob Simon, he isn’t the least bit bitter for the years he was working hard when he might have been enjoying fame. “There is no shame in hard work,” he says, counting his current successes as no more than “a good year, of course.”