Off The Record :: Rodriguez (Detroit, MI)


Off The Record is a recurring feature here on the Drunkard that marries two of my greatest interests; music and travel. Having a locals perspective when visiting a new locale is the difference between experiencing it through the lens of a tourist and of that of a native.

Off The Record gathers some of my favorite artists, asks them to reflect on their city of residence, and choose a handful of places they could not live without, be them bookstores, bars, restaurants or vistas.

Today’s installment of Off The Record finds us Detroit, Michigan, home of Rodriguez. Whenever we here of an artist long rumored to be dead, not to mention inspiring revolutionaries worldwide, we, naturally, take notice. And when that person plays guitar and sings like a psychedelic Nick Drake crossed with Cream, we really take notice. We’re happy to report that Sixto Diaz Rodriguez is indeed alive and well and living in Detroit. With the reissue of his late-sixties LP Cold Fact hitting retail shelves today, Rodriguez uses OTR to provide an unfiltered, politically charged, tour of his hometown. Heads up, this may piss some folks from “the D” off.

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This is a walk through Detroit. But be protected. Our history reads: Not so peaceful. As you take this tour, be sure you stay with the Living. And should you find yourself, a snowflake in an ocean of Darkness, be secure. The Force is with you.

Taking a ride on the bus, might be one quick approach. Especially a crosstown, like the Dexter. These buses don’t run on a regular schedule but once you take this ride, the cultural diversity will become clear and obvious.

At the waterfront stands the Renaissance Center, now owned by General Motors. This is the company that is crying poverty. This is the biggest building in Detroit. Before this it was owned by Ford (Motor Company).

Go to the City County Building and you will be confronted with the security measures that are being taken there. This is a city under siege.

Visit the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, flanked by the Wayne County Jail. It is in the vicinity of one of three magnificent casino skyscrapers newly built to continue to drain this impoverished, undereducated, politically-abused population.

This is a city of victims. Everyone I know and everyone I have met have told me their stories of rip offs, of theft, of violence and of urban mayhem. And I am a musician. They confide in me like others might confide in a priest.

Stop in at 36th District Court. Be witness to the sociology there. The Courthouse sits next to Ford Field (NFL) and Comerica Park (MLB), reflected in the strobe lights of the Fox Theatre and Hockeytown Cafe (NHL). Once there, betwen Woodward and Griswold, pass by what is known as, Urine Street. The stench of it will almost knock a person down.

As a person is en route to a place called Capitol Park, you will find an area adorned by ten dead trees, with a statue of the first governor of Michigan. Governor Mason. His head swarmed with pigeon shit. This is not far from historic Campus Martius where a monument stands to commemorate so many who sacrificed so much in the Civil War.

This, Our beloved polis. – Rodriguez

MP3: Rodriguez :: Sugar Man
MP3: Rodriguez :: Only Good For Conversation
Purchase: Rodriguez – Cold Fact

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11 thoughts on “Off The Record :: Rodriguez (Detroit, MI)

  1. Yuck. Doesn’t this guy go to record stores, eat lunch, see movies or do anything with his time besides listen to other people bitch? The purpose of this feature is to have an artist “and choose a handful of places they could not live without.” It sounds like he could do without a lot of these places. In fact, I can’t think of a single reason why anybody would want to go to these places.

    I’m sure drinks at Corktown, a show at the Stick, touring the DIA, kielbasas in Hamtramck, any of the millions of coney islands, and the DEMF at Hart Plaza would be too obvious. Instead we got whateverybody already thinks Detroit is: minorities being kept down by the man.


    It does sound like a hell-hole. But I guess a lot of city’s wouldn’t sound too appetizing if you took a tour of city court buildings. Here we see the main circuit court, the criminal court (Frank Murphy), the actual city court (36 district), plus a stop at a bus depot (Capital Park). Even if you wanted to be limited to the city-center, it seems like a really odd selection of spots.

    There’s a lot to both like and dislike about Detroit. This does nothing to shed light on either.

  3. i am very embarrassed to have grown up in detroit and just now be finding out about this. anyway, thanks for the post!

    hopefully i’ll be able to catch him in nyc next month if it’s not already sold out.

  4. I like Rodriguez’s music, but he’s done little to shed light (or darkness) on my town. I am proud to be a Detroiter. I have lived in NYC. I have lived in Seattle. I have never been happier than right here in the D. It’s not a city for everyone. It’s not a city in which to raise a child. But it is an amazing place. I agree with the other comments here, but I give Rodriguez a pass. He failed commercially and was left to fend for himself, a folk musician in a gritty urban metropolis that can chew up the weak. He was forced to work in factories instead of follow his dream; a machinery accident cost him part of his finger. What I’m trying to say is that he’s a bitter, bitter man kicking a great town that’s already down, though I guess I can’t really blame him.

  5. Actually, a lot of history has been made in those buildings, and they remain significant sites. Whether via tragedy or trimuph. I was born in Detroit but have lived in the suburbs since a very young age. I can recall how vibrant the place used to be–there used to be retail stores, newsstands on the street, people everywhere, buildings occupied–and these days, I don’t have much desire to visit the city for any reason. After a person visits other US cities that both preserve aspects of the past and maintain their infrastructure and develop for the future, you see how a city is supposed to be. Chicago, New York, and on and on. Detroit used to be a tremendous center for the arts, but only skeletal remains of that are still evident. Office buildings which were fully occupied only twenty to thirty years ago are vacant. That’s sickness in evidence, not a sign of a thriving or active city, and the divisiveness that many see between the city and suburbs (which I’d argue has little substance at all) is basically just a variation of territorial rivalry. Younger people who never saw Detroit, even as it was in the ’60s and ’70s, have no idea what has been lost. What came earlier will blow those little minds, if they ever bother to check out old photo books of Hastings Street and other cultural areas. The region in general is by far the richest in the country for musical talent and invention, nowhere else even comes close to Michigan. I forever post corrections at websites, always those operated by people who clearly never lived here, about the myth of ‘Detroit rock’. Not only due to their obsession with the term ‘rock’, but their error in associating everything from Michigan as being linked with Detroit. As we know, MI music has elements of soul, blues, jazz, rockabilly, punk, bluegrass, and anything else you can name. The city of Detroit has really had very little to do with rock music, although Motown’s presence here was remarkable and directly inspired many, many other performers. The older class of MI/MI-associated rock musicians–let’s say, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, The Rationals, Alice Cooper (an Arizonan?), etc. didn’t necessarily live in or record in the city, or even close to it. The MC5 lived in the city, were harassed by the “authorities”, and then went to Ann Arbor and nearby area. The Stooges were from that area, too. Stevie Wonder was from Saginaw. Etc. Interesting that the area was so incredibly rich in talent that we never heard of Rodriguez, Death, and others until decades later. Even bands like the Algebra Mothers (a personal fave, circa ’78) took flak from many back then, but now people realize how amazing they were.

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