Legal strife ... Sixto Rodriguez, who was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, is caught in a battle over his music.
Sixto Rodriguez may be longing for the days when his life was a little more simple.
The enigmatic singer-songwriter turned his back on a musical career after releasing only two albums in the early 1970s. For nearly 40 years he was largely unknown throughout the world until Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul tracked him down for his 2012 documentary Searching for Sugar Man.
The film went on to win an Oscar, interest in Rodriguez rocketed and his musical career was reborn.
Sad end ... Swedish Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, 36, was found dead on Tuesday. Photo: AFP
This month, however, may have been among the most difficult of the singer's life. Two weeks ago, the man who inadvertently kick-started his comeback, Bendjelloul, committed suicide. And now Rodriguez faces legal woes over claims he breached his songwriter deal in the 1960s.
A first lawsuit wasn't directed at the performer. It came from Michigan company Gomba Music, which alleged that Rodriguez’s next associates, Interior Music Corp, "concocted a scheme to fraudulently conceal the writing of compositions by Sixto Rodriguez" by crediting compositions from the classic 1970 album Cold Fact to a fictional brother named Jesus Rodriguez. Gomba believed it thus owned the songs from Cold Fact and sued Interior for fraudulent concealment and tortious interference.
Interior, however, has responded by lodging a third-party complaint against the musician, including a summons. It alleges Rodriguez provided "a sworn affidavit, written notice of his rescission" of his previous deal that implied he owned the rights to all his songs based on Gomba dropping him from their roster.
Interior is suing the singer for breaching warranties and representations, and a failure to co-operate because it seems to believe he is in cahoots with his original label "in return for financial consideration, even though, by cooperating with Gomba in the prosecution of the claim, Rodriguez would be admitting his own sworn affidavit was false".
While money apparently never meant that much to the singer when Bendjelloul was making Searching for Sugar Man, the late filmmaker told the Fairfax Media in 2012 that Rodriguez "does care that he didn’t get paid for 40 years for royalties". Bendjelloul, however, did note: "It’s true he doesn’t use money. He gives most of it away, he really does. I’ve seen it with my own eyes."
Here's hoping Rodriguez won't be needing it now.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.