“I describe myself as a musical political,” musician Sixto Rodriguez says. “There’s a lot of issues that Detroit has, and so I stay interested.”
He’s not accusing the mayor of hiding the crime rate, but Detroit musician Sixto Rodriguez says his hometown can’t get away from its problems.
“Redlining is still an issue. They’re talking about making Detroit family-friendly and then pulling out the school system,” he says. “I’m interested in what happens to Detroit and all its residents who’ve paid their dues already.”
Rodriguez is one of a few dozen people who have pulled petitions to run for mayor of Detroit. He says he hasn’t committed to a campaign yet — petitions signed by registered voters are not due back until the end of April, and he has no official campaign committee, according to county records. But if he decides to run, it would not be Rodriguez’s first time seeking office.
“I’ve run for mayor of Detroit. I’ve run for City Council of Detroit. I’ve run for state representative of Michigan, and I’ve also run for my life,” he says. “I’m political as a person. I do music too.”
The 74-year-old singer-songwriter remains a fixture in Detroit’s “Cass Corridor” area, which is near where he lives. Even with its revival, much of the neighborhood reflects Rodriguez’s music, which is politically oriented in a kind of throwback way. It’s appealing to a younger audience because his lyrics authentically express political and social angst about subjects ranging from the rock-and-roll standards of sex and drugs to modern expressions of social issues like poverty, religion and feminism.
Here are a few lines from 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
Rodriguez, who is Mexican-American, garnered worldwide fame not only as a musician but also as the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary “Searching for Sugar Man.” The film chronicled two South African men’s quest to find out more about the enigmatic performer and portrayed Rodriguez as having vanished from the public eye.
But Rodriguez has been known in Detroit music circles for years even if he rarely played publicly in the decades between his first album’s release in 1970 and the early 2000s. Since then he’s appeared at local venues and then toured internationally following the success of the film.
Rodriguez admits he’s well-known, but will not say that his musical fame would translate to a campaign strategy. He says IF he runs — -and that’s a big “if,” – he’ll be a bit of a populist.
“Sometimes the people who are the underdogs need a candidate who everybody knows. Power to the people, you know,” he says.
If he runs, he’ll have to campaign around his music schedule. Rodriguez is scheduled to tour the West Coast and in Canada this spring and the East Coast this fall.
Catch him locally Saturday, April 22 at The Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac.