Hate Street Dialogue

Album: Cold Fact (1970)

Songfacts®:

  • The title refers to Haight Street, the epicenter of hippie culture in San Francisco during the '60s. The area around Haight Street was known for peace and love, but this song is very bleak, drawing a sharp contrast.

    The lyric deals with life in an unforgiving urban environment where there is little hope for a future outside of jail or death. "I've tasted hate street's hanging tree," Rodriguez sings, a reference to the trees that were used for lynchings in the American South.
  • Along with "Gommorah (A Nursery Rhyme)," this is one of two songs on Rodriguez' debut album, Cold Fact, that he didn't write. It was composed by his producers, Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore, along with a songwriter named Gary Harvey who was a friend of theirs. In a Songfacts interview with Dennis Coffey, he recalled Rodriguez coming up with the "hanging tree" line. "It was all organic," said Coffey. "Rodriguez had that kind of darkness, and I think that particular line came from him."
  • A South African group called Black Eyed Susan released a cover in 1998 that became popular in their homeland. Rodriguez got little attention in his home country of America, but became a cult figure in Australia and South Africa, where his music became wildly popular. He ended up touring South Africa for the first time in 1998 after some internet sleuths tracked him down and arranged the tour. In 2012, his story was told in the Oscar-winning documentary Searching For Sugar Man.

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