Often when companies ask the question “what motivates you?”, one of the most common responses received would be “public recognition”. Many times this is listed above compensation and time off in the hierarchy of professional motivators. For some of us, the simple acknowledgement of a job well done is more valuable than the money.
There are few who have had to wait longer for that acknowledgement that Sixto Rodriguez. The Oscar award winning documentary “Searching for Sugarman” tells the story of the Bob Dylan-esque folk singer who put out two albums in the early 1970’s. Both albums turned out to be duds in the United States, which put an immediate and abrupt end to the talented singer’s career. However just as his music career was coming to an end, his songs began to receive airplay in South Africa. Soon thereafter one of his albums when platinum by selling over a million copies. South Africans began to include his name in sentences normally reserved only for Elvis and The Beatles. Everything seemed to be looking up for Sixto although there was one problem, he had no idea any of this success was happening. After his albums flopped in the United States he went back to his day job as a construction worker in Detroit and there he stayed for the next two and a half decades under the impression that people didn’t care for his music. This all changed in 1998 when his daughter stumbled across a South African website dedicated to his music. It was only then he truly realized how successful his music had been and that all of his effort had not been in vain.
Sixto went on to play countless sold out concerts in South Africa, which stunned many who lived there. Most had assumed Sixto was dead, which would help explain the twenty plus year absence and the reason no one tried to alert him to his fame abroad. The odd thing is, once he realized his success and started playing concerts, he didn’t do it for the money. All the proceeds from his concerts were donated to friends and family and he continues to live in the same small Detroit home.