Sugar Man’s daughter tries to mend a broken heart on tour

2014-05-25 06:00

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When her father, American musician Sixto Rodriguez, first toured South Africa in 1998, his eldest daughter Eva fell in love with and married a South African man.

Now her marriage is on the rocks, and the ex-military pilot, who settled with her husband and son in Wilderness on the Garden Route and trained as a sangoma in Mdantsane near East London, is curing her heartache by touring with her dad.

Rodriguez played festivals this week and has concerts lined up in San Francisco and Los Angeles next week.

While visiting Cape Town to see her father perform some years ago, Eva said: “I live in Wilderness, it’s pretty remote. I’ve been there a long time. So I enjoy Cape Town, the art and the buzz, but it gets too much and then I long to go back to Wilderness.”

It’s not clear what led to the couple’s separation, but one of Eva’s friends in Wilderness, Pauline Lourens, told City Press: “Eva has a lot of heartache in her life right now. But she will be fine, it will be good for her to travel with her dad.”

Eva (51) is extremely publicity shy: her friends will not reveal her estranged husband’s name, and she has been careful to keep his identity out of documents and records.

Her father is back in the limelight after a documentary, Searching for Sugar Man, told his extraordinary story.

The film, made over six years by Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul, was released in 2012 and won an Oscar. It tracked Rodriguez battling to make a living in Detroit, unaware that his 1970 album Cold Fact – which contained the hits Sugar Man and I Wonder – was a runaway success in South Africa.

On May 13, Bendjelloul committed suicide in Stockholm. A day later, Rodriguez solemnly told an audience in Chicago: “He will be sorely missed. Sweden has lost a favourite son there. So have the States.”

Bendjelloul died just weeks after a record company lawsuit involving Rodriguez was filed in a US court.

In the documents, Gomba Music claims music industry kingpin Clarence Avant stole Rodriguez’s Cold Fact compositions in the late 1960s.

Gomba Music says Searching for Sugar Man prompted their court application, which calls for a jury trial over copyright infringement and a subsequent damages payout.

The court application states that on July 25 1966, Rodriguez entered into contract with Gomba Music for five years.

The record company claims that in 1969, Avant – of Interior Music Corporation – “concocted a scheme whereby to fraudulently conceal compositions by Sixto Rodriguez”.

Among other allegations, Gomba says the singer’s name was fraudulently changed to Jesús Rodriguez as a way for Avant to sidestep existing contractual obligations.

Described by the Miami Herald as the “Godfather of Black Music” in America, Avant has launched the careers of numerous entertainment stars, among them Quincy Jones.

The court papers go on to detail that while the contested compositions – released on Cold Fact – were a commercial failure in the US, it was shipped to South Africa, where it sold in excess of 500?000 copies.

The album reached popularity “on the level of The Rolling Stones” in South Africa, but Avant pocketed the cash, Gomba says. The label is now demanding a cut of the profits.

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