Almost Forty Years Too Late?

Friday, September 26th, 2008 | News
Almost Forty Years Too Late?

I’ll start this piece with a broad and inflammatory statement; there is no justice in the world, especially the world of music, but maybe there is karma? The evidence for this opinion is an artist, who’s 1970 album has only recently received the worldwide praise it deserves. Regular and observant readers will have noticed this site’s content can be quite eclectic with content that can focus on about both up-and-coming and established groups. We occasionally look back at classic albums from years gone by, but today we will go back a little further.

The story of Detroit born musician Sixto D. Rodriguez goes like this: in 1970 he recorded the sublime album “Cold Fact” which he followed up the next year with “Coming From Reality”, Both records were released on a recording label that folded in 1975. After the limited success of both albums in the American market, he gave up on his musical career and drifted into relative obscurity. This caused many rumours about his possible demise ranging from suicide (on stage), to drug addiction, and even that he was in prison for killing his wife. All of this was of course untrue, he had just given up on achieving musical success and dropped out of the game. What he didn’t know was he had gained a cult following in countries like South Africa and Australia, where his imported albums had sold well. He ended up touring around Australia in 1979 and 1981 and releasing live recording of these shows. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s, while he was working as a labourer in Detroit, that his daughter discovered through the internet, that his fan base in South Africa was trying to track him down via an online campaign, “The Great Rodriguez Hunt”. A decade later, the 66-year-old singer/songwriter is still alive, well and touring. Lately his original masterpiece “Cold Fact” has been released again to speak to a whole new generation. He is now gaining attention from all over the world, by people amazed that a talent like this could remain unknown for so long. Some have argued that he is the equal of his contemporaries such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Neil Young; musicians whose well-crafted songs and political lyrics turned them into household names, cemented their fame and left an impact on the popular consciousness. Recognition doesn’t always come when it should.

Since hearing about “Cold Fact” only recently, I have put it on high rotate, as it not only sounds musically great almost forty years on, but the lyrics seem just as relevant as ever. For example from the tune titled “This Is Not A Song, It’s an Outburst: Or, The Establishment Blues” :

“The mayor hides the crime rate
council woman hesitates
Public gets irate but forget the vote date
Weatherman complaining, predicted sun, it’s raining
Everyone’s protesting, boyfriend keeps suggesting
you’re not like all of the rest

Adultery plays the kitchen, bigot cops non-fiction
The little man gets shafted, sons and monies drafted
Living by a time piece, new war in the Far East
Can you pass the Rorschach test?

It’s a hassle it’s an educated guess.
Well, frankly I couldn’t care less.”

Although Rodriguez is described as a folk musician I wouldn’t really call this a folk album. For example, the song “Only Good For Conversation” starts with a riff that could have been from a Deep Purple song. It is more like gentle rock music, with acoustic guitars surrounded by psychedelic and orchestral overdubs, but every song is different and has it’s own story. The song “Sugarman” which seems to have become his signature tune, is about the realities of inner city drug-dealing, and has the lyrics:

“Silver magic ships you carry
Jumpers, coke, sweet Mary Jane

Sugar man you’re the answer
That makes my questions disappear”

It’s almost criminal it’s taken so long for this album get the attention it deserves. Although you’d expect it to be dated by it’s age, it is still as fresh and crisp as anything I’ve heard recently. The reason I see it’s lyrical content as so relevant, is that the time when it was originally released, was a time that promised so much in terms of societal change. There was obviously great turmoil and uncertainty, with the backdrop of the Cold/Vietnam War and the notion of a social revolution promising so much, but which in hindsight delivered so little. We’ve probably heard about the apparent social change aiming to break the bonds of conformity, the general growth of anti-establishment feelings amoung youner people, that caused a generational riff but never quite put the peace and love into society, that was expected. I see our current stage of history to be very much like this, funny how everything repeats. In an age where we are looking for solutions to contemporary crisis’s and we are searching for another way of finding “change and hope”. In this way, all the issues raised in the album “Cold Fact” are still as relevant and topical. So if you’re interested in conscious lyrics that are not afraid to take a political stance, then definitely give this album a try. It has a point-of-view, but at the same time doesn’t try to club you over the head with it. So all this proves to me that protest singers aren’t dead, they’re just sleeping.

Find out more about the ‘Cold Fact’ re-release at the following places:

Official Reissue 2008

Cold Fact Daily Music Guide Review

“But thanks for your time
Then you can thank me for mine
And after that’s said
Forget it”
(Forget It – Rodriguez)

…Yossarian

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2 Comments to Almost Forty Years Too Late?

[...] gerard wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptSince hearing about “Cold Fact” only recently, I have put it on high rotate, as it not only sounds musically great almost forty years on, but the blyrics/b seem just as relevant as ever. For example from the tune titled “This Is Not A bSong/b b…/b [...]

[...] Almost Forty Years Too Late?There was obviously great turmoil and uncertainty, with the backdrop of the Cold/Vietnam War and the notion of a social revolution promising so much, but which in hindsight delivered so little. We should have all heard about the social … [...]

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