Rodriguez - one of the most talented singer-songwriters of his generation, destined for chart-topping success and the kind of idolatry enjoyed by Bob Dylan and James Taylor, except he disappeared...
Rodriguez - the subject of myth and much speculation
It is hard to convey the magic of Rodriguez and his story, as told in the award-winning documentary Searching For Sugar Man, in UK cinemas this week, having already won awards at film festivals around the world.
Two South Africans go in search of an artist famous in their homeland, but whom nobody else seems to know much about. What starts out as a mystery becomes a social history, and a personal story of dignity, creativity and recognition.
"If I had to name ten artists that I've ever been involved with, Rodriguez would be in the top five," says Quincy Jones. And there was never any doubting the talent and originality of the singer Rodriguez who, from a building site in his native Detroit, crafted the kind of tunes to make a generation's communal heart swing.
Rodriguez was considered a special talent by all those who heard him sing
Except it didn't happen. For whatever reason, Rodriguez didn't catch the same wave enjoyed by his peers Dylan, Taylor, Denver - and disappeared into a mist of different stories and speculation... that he set fire to himself on stage, that he did away with himself.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, in South Africa, revolution was stirring. Anti-apartheid protests were spreading, and activists needed a soundtrack. Who should they pick, but Rodriguez, whose albums Cold Fact and Coming From Reality had somehow ended up in most people's collections, and provided just the kind of plaintive defiance their outrage called for... Rodriguez became the voice of a generation, and he didn't even know it.
What happened next? You'll have to watch this stunning documentary to find out - a story whose narrative power, mystery and over-riding sense of miracle provided what young director Malik Bendjelloul called "an absolute gift, but also a great responsibility, because the story was sooo good, I had to do it justice".
And Rodriguez himself? Well, I wouldn't have spoiled it for you, except the quietly-spoken American is shortly to appear with David Letterman, so I guess the truth is out there. He's alive and well, and incredibly sanguine about his hard, labourer's life still in Chicago, when he should have been enjoying superstar royalties.
Rodriguez remains sanguine about the opportunities he's missed out on in the past
"You can't think like that," he told me in Sheffield where the film debuted to a standing ovation at the recent Documentary Festival.
"It's not a competition - there's enough for everyone."
In this Twitter and hype-obsessed age, it's hard to believe that there is still someone who is happy with his lot, not clamouring after fame and fortune, but Rodriguez remains the real deal and, while his recognition comes very late, it is now real and enduring.
Searching For Sugar Man is in UK cinemas now. Watch the trailer below...