Thoughts on the Death of Rodriguez

But thanks for your time

Then you can thank me for mine 

And after that’s said

Forget it

(Lyrics: Sixto Rodriguez)

The news of Rodriguez’s death caused my heart to clench. It was as if I had lost a family member. I drank a tot of my best whisky and silently thanked him for the pleasure his music and lyrics brought me. He did not record one bad song. Heartfelt polished gems, every one of them. His economic way of saying exactly what he felt and meant appealed to my teenage rebelliousness. My friend Koos Barkhuizen said he sang as if someone was holding a gun against his head, which is pretty much the way teenagers complete all tasks. But to me, it seemed as if he was writing and singing just for me, as if he could read my jumbled thoughts and make sense of them for me. 

When the documentary Searching for Sugarman charmed its way into the world’s heart, Rodriguez became anything to everyone. Apartheid activist; Cynic; Poet; Ethnic Warrior; Corporate misfit, etc. Here’s my connection to Rodriguez. When the Rolling Stone Record Guide was published in 1979, I wrote a letter to editor Dave Marsh pointing out that he had left out Gilbert O’Sullivan and Sixto Rodriguez. He wrote back acknowledging the O’Sullivan oversight, but who was Rodriguez? Could I send more information? And would I like to write a monthly column for him on SA music? I sent him all the info I had on Rodriguez (not much), but politely declined his offer. I wanted to be a school librarian.

I regret that decision. Who knows where it could have taken me? I also learned from that decision: take opportunities when they arise. When the opportunity arose to contribute to Zero Carbon Charge, I grabbed it. The chutzpah of taking on both Eskom and the SA motoring industry appealed to my aging rebelliousness. The way they stated the problem and formulated the solution in the simplest terms was disarming. 

Electric vehicle charging stations powered only by renewable energy? Yes, it is a world first. In less than two years Zero Carbon Charge has become a force to be reckoned with. Like Rodriguez, it started as a small swell in South Africa and is now making waves beyond our borders. RIP Sixto Rodriguez, long live Zero Carbon Charge.

Image source credit: The New York Times

Tim is a greying redhead who thinks green. He is the author of books on welding, soccer and Herman Charles Bosman

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