Rodriguez - The Music

"...but how much of you is repetition
that you didn't whisper to him too..."

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Cover versions

Rodriguez has been widely covered by pub musicians and cover bands in South Africa, but the songs listed below are the only known actual recordings.

Grading system:
5=Indispensible, classic song
4=Brilliant, great song
3=Good, worth a listen
1=Poor, don't bother

Viva Rodriguez is an Australian Rodriguez tribute band, read more here...

'Sugar Man' was sampled by producer Large Professor for US rapper Nas (uncredited) on his 2001 'Stillmatic' CD. Read more...

In 2002 Large Professor sampled 'Sugar Man' again for his own album '1st Class' on the song 'The Man'.

'Silver Words' has been widely covered by the Reggae fraternity. More here...

In 2002 Sugar Man was remixed by DJ Pooch and New Shoes and released on a few South African compilation CDs, including the 'Big Brother II' CD.

Inner City Blues (live 2003) - Powderfinger
For those of you in Australia - Powderfinger has just released a live double album, and they cover 'Inner City Blues' on disc two. They have done a pretty good job of it too. check it out!!
-- Amy D, Australia, September 2004

Rich Folks Hoax - Amanda Strydom

Amanda Strydom has never been one for sticking to convention and her new CD 'Verspreide Donderbuie / Scattered Thunder' is no exception. On this varied album Amanda covers the Rodriguez classic 'Rich Folks Hoax' in a soulful bluesy style. The arrangement is by Janine Neethling and Juan (Floors) Oosthuizen's fuzz-guitar solo is really superb. Altogether now; "the moon is hanging in the purple sky...". [, September 2003]


David Holmes and the Free Association have just released a new version of the Rodriguez classic, 'Sugar Man', featuring backing vocals by Rodriguez. The song was recorded in New York in April 2003 by David Holmes and Rodriguez, who drove in from Detroit especially for the sessions. The original version of 'Sugar Man' was the opening track on David Holmes' 2003 compilation 'Come Get It I Got It'.

David Holmes is the iconic UK music producer behind the group The Free Association; a string of cool, compilation albums ('Come Get It I Got It', 'Bow Down To The Exit Sign', 'The Film's Crap, Let's Slash The Seats', 'Let's Get Killed'); and the soundtracks for recent movies like 'Ocean's Eleven', 'Out Of Sight', 'Analyze That', 'Buffalo Soldiers', and 'Stander' (the upcoming bio-pic about the South African bank-robbing, rogue cop).

This new remake features the sultry vocals of the Free Association's lead vocalist, Petra Jean Phillipson, with Rodriguez himself on backing vocals. The single release also features two other remixes - the first is "an electro disco epic" by the well-known New York City House DJ, Maurice Fulton. The second is a crazier hip hop version by Gonzalez, with a monologue about "sugar puffs" and the like.

The single will be officially released on September 1 by Mercury Records, but has already been picking up plenty of radio play in the UK.
-- SA Rock Digest Issue #215, 25th August 2003

Daily Telegraph (London), 28 August 2003

Success is sweet for the Sugar Man

Ben Thompson on the singer-songwriter who became a celebrity - without knowing about it.

A new single out next week is the title page to a compelling story of artistic virtue ultimately rewarded. Spanning five decades and almost as many continents, it's a story that leads from the hippie underground of the 1960s to a 21st century building site in Detroit, via the war-torn border country of apartheid South Africa.

As recorded by the Free Association, the group created by Belfast-born DJ and "Ocean's Eleven" soundtrack composer David Holmes, "Sugar Man" is a woozy slab of symphonic pop. At first, the addictive chorus of "Silver magic ships, you carry/jumpers, coke, sweet mary jane" suggests a common-or-garden drug mantra, but the tune twists and turns into unexpected shapes of regret and foreboding, which elevate it far above the average hymn to chemical indulgence.

The growl backing vocals come from the song's author, the enigmatic and extravagantly talented singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, whose superb 1968 [actually 1969] original featured on last year's acclaimed Holmes compilation "Come Get It, I Got It".

'We didn't think of this as a cover version, more as a means of bringing attention to the original,' insists Holmes (who had paid $100 for his copy of the album it came from). 'That was why we had to have Sixto on the track, even though he insisted on driving to New York to record it because he didn't want to risk taking his guitar on the plane.'

Rodriguez was born the sixth child (hence that distinctive first name) of a poor Mexican-American family, in Michigan in 1942. "Cold Fact" and "After The Fact", the brace of albums he recorded for Buddah Records' offshoot Sussex in the late 60s, stand among the very finest work of that illustrious musical era (and are surely due a long overdue UK CD reissue). A righteous cynicism to match Bob Dylan at his best, the Beatles' melodious sense of mischief and a witty, discursive vocal style that was all his own- Rodriguez, it seemed, had it all. Everything, that is, except commercial success.

Even as his career was drawing to a premature close in America, Rodriguez's unique brand of anti-establishment cool ('This system's gonna fall soon/ to an angry young tune') began to find a ready audience overseas. First in Australasia and then in South Africa, where his wry hedonistic lyrics struck a particular chord with that land's often forgotten counter-culture.

'For the guys who had to go and fight on the border in the 70s,' explains South African super-fan Stephen Segerman (who was one of them). 'Rodriguez was to South African soldiers what Hendrix was to the Americans in Vietnam.'

Unbeknown to the man himself (by that time working on a building site in Detroit), Rodriguez's legend continued to grow throughout the 80s and 90s until his daughter Eva idly typed in the family name on the internet and was shocked to discover a website (co-founded by Segerman) called "The Great Rodriguez Hunt" - 'expressing this great interest in my father's music,' his other daughter Regan remembers, 'but thinking he was dead.' Two triumphant South African stadium tours, a live album and a TV documentary, resonantly called "Dead Men Don't Tour" followed.

Admirably unfazed by swapping obscurity in his homeland for rock messiah in a country he had never visited, Rodriguez enjoyed seeing his face staring back at him from every telegraph pole in Johannesburg, then returned to his $10-an-hour labouring job in Detroit.

It is here that I finally got to talk to Rodriguez on the telephone. After an impassioned discourse from the impact of drugs on Coleridge's "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" to how much he enjoyed seeing Nirvana play live, he came to a philosophical conclusion, 'Life ain't chronological,' he said. 'Some older people appear to be younger and some younger people appear to be older: that's the gist of it.'

"Sugar Man" is released by 13 Amp/Mercury on Monday [1st September 2003].

Original article appears here..., 11th August 2003

Free Association David Holmes' habit of rooting around in dusty old crates yielded a gem when he picked up an original Rodriguez album, 'Cold Fact', which contained the track 'Sugarman'.

This remake features the sultry vocals of Petra Jean Phillipson, with Rodriguez (now 69 years old) [actually 61] himself on backing vocals. It's a track well-suited to be sung by one who has lived a life of ups and downs. Rodriguez's voice echoes the lessons of the past and Phillipson infuses the track with emotion way beyond her years. Lazily picked guitars are laid out over loose, bluesy beats laced with sci-fi FX that add an unearthly feel to the track. Gonzales turns in a mad hip-hop version, rapping on about Sugar Puffs and getting a bit crazy. Maurice Foulton dives into leftfield electronic territory for a deep, funky workout.

The Free Association has truly breathed new life into the track. The music, if not the man, has aged well. 8/10

From Dot Music website

Album The Monkeywrench: I found your Rodriguez site and wanted to let you know about another cover version. A band I'm in here in the States (The Monkeywrench) recently released a version of 'Sugarman' on our CD 'Electric Children' and as a 7" single, both on Estrus records out of Bellingham Washington. I had no idea Rodriguez was popular anywhere!
-- Steve Turner, June 2000
Here's some news: I bought an interesting CD in Austin. The music is modern psych-rock, more rock than psych, and for the most part the album is journeyman stuff, neither poor nor great -- just tolerably good original rock. It's by the American group, The Monkeywrench, who have recorded a version of "Sugar Man". Here are my preliminary thoughts on their version of the song: flat vocals and guitar on the intro, though it picks up when the chorus begins -- purposefully flat. The singer is trying to sound jaded and perhaps worn out by a drug experience, but comes across as flat, lacking the emotional feeling Rodriguez, or Just Jinger for that matter, conveys.

The trippy middle, the interlude of sounds, is okay, they understood this part of the song, though it is very brief. All in all, an interesting and okay version by The Monkeywrench, but not as good as the two versions I've heard: Sixto himself and Just Jinger.

single What I wonder is how The Monkeywrench found this song, where they heard it. Why they decided to record it is not a mystery, Sixto wrote a great song, no denying. The Monkeywrench musicians look like old potheads, whatever old potheads look like. I'll e-mail them or their company and ask where they heard "Sugar Man". Twice, though, I've e-mailed Estrus Records about the postage for a copy of the 7" single but they never answered. When I found the CD of the entire album at Waterloo Records in Austin, I said to myself, "The hell with it," and bought it.

Like I said, it's okay psych-rock, I feel I got my money's worth, and I haven't heard the entire CD yet. They do a good job with a Flamin' Groovies cover also. Most of the songs are original. It's worth a listen.
-- Kurt Shoemaker, Texas, August 2000

Family Dogg: In 1972, an album by The Family Dogg, titled The View From Rowland's Head was released. The producer was Steve Rowland, who produced Rodriguez's Coming From Reality album. The Rowland's Head album also featured Chris Spedding, the session guitarist responsible for the stunning solo on Climb Up On My Music. This album features no less than 6 Rodriguez compositions!

I'm happy to have discovered your Rodriguez page! A few years ago I found "The View from Rowland's Head" at a thrift shop and I thought it was really, really weird. Then I noticed that all my favorite songs weren't written by the band, they were written by Rodriguez, whoever he was! For all I knew, it could have been one of the band's real name or something. Now that I know who to look for, I'm looking forward to tracking down more Rodriguez compositions.
- Kevin Carhart, June 1999

Kevin has posted 2 streaming WAV files from this album on the Net at: Rodriguez WAVs

Smokey?: You were wondering if 'Advice to Smokey Robinson' was really by him, and yeah, I dunno, but the credit on the record says so. Suddenly it hit me, Rodriguez is from Detroit, home of Motown records, so maybe this is like his affectionate tribute to the Motown sound.
-- Kevin Carhart, June 1999
Family Dogg: It sounds at times like Rodriguez is kind of going for Dylan's cadences when singing. I wonder if that makes the Family Dogg like the interpreter of the songwriter's songs with more lush arrangement, like the Byrds or the Turtles covering Dylan. Anyway, it's great.
-- Kevin Carhart, June 1999

Album cover and track listing for this obscure album at the Chris Spedding website

  • I Think Of You - Susan Cowsill 4

    Susan Cowsill of the Cowsills (The Cowsills recorded an excellent version of "Hair" in 1969), covered Rodriguez's 'I Think Of You' in 1977. It was released on the flip-side of 'The Next Time That I See You' on the Warner Bros label. For more info visit The Cowsills Web Page.

    Thanks to Rodriguez for the info, Sugar for finding the site and John for finding the song.

  • I Wonder - Generation EXT (3.50) 3

    On the 8th April 1998 at 9.26 p.m. Radio Metro played a rap/hip-hop version of I Wonder, performed by Generation EXT. This was the very first time this re-make had ever been played on air. Vocals by Philippa Berrington-Blew and rap by Tazz. Produced by Barry Dean and co-produced by Craig Bartholomew.

    "Sounds good to me" was the response from DJ Wilson B Nkosi.

    This track was released on the South African compilation CD Dance Connexion 17 in September 1998.

    Listen to a 24 second snippet here.

  • Sugar Man - Just Jinger (4.37) 5

    Just Jinger had often covered this song on stage, and performed it to a great crowd response at the U2 concert in Cape Town on the 16th March 1998. Their EP CD Something For Now released 23rd March 1998 included their superb studio recording of this classic song. On the 22nd April Just Jinger released their new video Live, Unplugged & Backstage which included a live and unplugged version of Sugar Man recorded at the Little Theatre, Pretoria on the 17th October 1997.

    Read some newspaper reports about Just Jinger here.

    Listen to a 17 second snippet here.

  • Hate Street Dialogue - Black Eyed Susan (3.26) 4

    South African Indie melodic grunge-rockers Black Eyed Susan recorded the album "Back Stabbers & Money Grabbers" in January 1998 and released it in May 1998. Included on their album is an uptempo remake of this classic Cold Fact song. Not actually written by Rodriguez, this song of urban decay and loneliness fits perfectly on Black Eyed Susan's album of otherwise original material. A great version on an even greater album. If you like your rock modern-but-retro, grungy-yet-tuneful, this album is for you.

    Listen to a 30 second snippet here.

    Read the amazing story of Hate Street Dialogue here.

  • Only Good For Conversation - Stella One Eleven (2.40) 4

    Triple Jay: Anyway just thought I would let you know that I heard a cover of "only good for conversation" (one of his best songs I think) on Triple J. I think the band was Spetre 8 or something, its on a JJJ compilation just released. Its a lady on vocals and its quite good, but nothing on the original.
    -- Stephen Bettess, Australia, December 1998
    Stella One Eleven: Just a quick note to solve the mystery of the aussie cover of "only good for conversation". Stella One Eleven is the band. They have just released an EP titled "only good for conversation". Released by Candle Records Cat # WOW411. Includes the title track and 4 originals. It is a very "alternative" sound w/female vocals. It sounds good to me.
    -- Gavin Kelly, Australia, August 1999
    Review: Grungy guitar and haunting female vocals from this Australian band. The other 4 original songs on the CD are also very good, but less heavy... recommended.
    -- Brian Currin, September 1999
  • Sugar Man - Stella One Eleven 3

    In 2001 Stella One Eleven also covered the classic 'Sugar Man'. A pleasant and interesting version. Visit Stella One Eleven's website at: Buy Stella One Eleven CDs from HMV Australia.

All songs written by Rodriguez except "Hate Street Dialogue" by G. Harvey/M. Theodore/D. Coffey.

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