50-year legacy of Sixto Rodriguez’s ‘Cold Fact’ is rooted In Detroit

It’s the 50-year anniversary of Sixto Rodriguez’s “Cold Fact,” co-produced with Motown Funk Brother Dennis Coffey. Although the album took off internationally, it’s still a Detroit story.

One of music’s most fascinating stories originated in Detroit, but unfolded in South Africa and Australia when audiences in those countries embraced an album largely ignored in the states.

“We looked at him as kind of a Mexican Bob Dylan, that’s the way he was writing.” – Dennis Coffey, album producer

Listen: The story behind Sixto Rodriguez “Cold Fact.”

Sixto Rodriguez, born in Detroit to Mexican immigrants, became a singer/songwriter composing protest songs that reflected the disparities in our society.

This culminated on the album Cold Fact released in March, 1970 — 50 years ago this month. Most recently, the Academy Award winning documentary titled “Searching for Sugarman” helped introduce Cold Fact to a whole new audience.

“We just believed in Rodriguez from the beginning. We heard him.” – Dennis Coffey, album producer

The album was produced by Motown Funk Brother Dennis Coffey, and Mike Theodore.

The first time they went to see Rodriguez perform at a Detroit club called The Sewer, Rodriguez had his back to the audience while he played. But Dennis and Mike were convinced that this artist and his songs would resonate with people if they had the opportunity to hear Rodriguez’s music.

“We looked at him as kind of a Mexican Bob Dylan, that’s the way he was writing,” said Dennis Coffey, co-producer on the album. “He was writing some very social commentary lyrics. We just believed in Rodriguez from the beginning. We heard him.”

It would take almost 10 years for Rodriguez’s music to be heard, and it wasn’t in the United States, but in Australia and then South Africa. He eventually became a music icon abroad, completely unknown to him. Rodriguez left his musician career after two low-selling albums.

In South Africa, however, rumors of the musician floated about his spectacular death. In fact, he was very much alive, still in in Detroit.

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  • Ann Delisi
    Ann Delisi hosts Essential Music, the Essential Conversations podcast series and the Essential Cooking broadcast and podcast. Born and raised in the Motor City, Ann is a broadcaster, interviewer, producer, music host, storyteller and proud Detroiter.