The story is that he released a couple of albums in the early '70s that tanked, so he gave up music and returned to blue-collar life in Detroit. But then it turned out he was revered in South Africa. He didn't know, and people there thought he had died.
People in the capacity crowd in Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts Center in Tampa -- including a healthy contingent of South Africans -- shouted "We love you!" and "You're amazing!" between songs and applauded when he repeated the same phrases back.
Still, his performance and his stage persona were extremely appealing during his own songs. Covers (Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things," Little Richard's "Lucille") didn't fare as well.
Whether you've seen the movie or not, there's something about the 70-something Rodriguez on stage that makes you cheer for him. That the actual music wasn't electrifying didn't matter; Rodriguez himself
electrified the crowd. They came to be in the presence of the Sugar Man. His wry smile, and his kindly, almost shy, demeanor were enough to enthrall them. Good music was a bonus.