'His impact was so unbelievable': Detroit musicians remember late folk legend and Motor City native Sixto Rodriguez

International folk legend and Detroit native Sixto Diaz Rodriguez has died at the age of 81.
International folk legend and Detroit native Sixto Diaz Rodriguez has died at the age of 81. Photo credit Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images

DETROIT (WWJ) - International folk legend and Detroit native Sixto Diaz Rodriguez has died at the age of 81.

Family members made the announcement on Tuesday, Aug. 8, stating that Rodriguez passed away earlier in the day. He leaves behind his three daughters, Sandra, Eva and Regan.

Rodriguez began his career in 1967 and released several albums that went largely under the radar in the United States, his website surgarman.org stated, but he shot to international fame in the 1970s with large fanbases in Australia, Botswana, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

He was especially popular in South Africa, where he allegedly sold more records than the "King of Rock and Roll," Elvis Presley, the Washington Post reported.

Rodriguez came into the U.S. spotlight in 2012 when he became the focus of the Academy Award-winning documentary "Searching for Sugar Man," which chronicles the efforts two Cape Town fans in their quest to uncover the truth about the rumored death of Rodriguez while learning more about the musician.

The film took home a BAFTA Award for Best Documentary at the 66th British Academy Film Awards in London before winning an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature two weeks later at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Detroit musician and music producer Brian Pastoria told WWJ's Jonathon Carlson that Rodriquez was a massively talented guitar player who greatly influenced the music scene.

"His impact was so unbelievable and he was such an influence in the blues and that and that kind of music and he didn't get recognized here until he went to South Africa," Pastoria said.

The musical icon was born Detroit on July 10, 1942 to Mexican working-class parents.

Rodriguez often sang of the difficulties that faced the Motor City's blue collar inhabitants and remained politically active throughout his career, even running unsuccessfully for the Detroit City Council in 1989, for Mayor of Detroit in 1981 and 1993 and for the Michigan House of Representatives in 2000, according to his campaign site.

The musician attended Wayne State University's Monteith College where he graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Philosophy. He was last known to be living in the Detroit's historic Woodbridge neighborhood, which was featured in "Searching for Sugar Man."

Pastoria said despite the later fame Rodriguez found in his home country, he remained just a "regular guy."

The musician was known to frequent local bars in Detroit's Cass Corridor, including Old Miami pub, where he would play for small crowds.

Rodriguez celebrated a birthday last month with a party at the Cadieux Café.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images