I finally got to see the South African made docu-movie Searching for Sugarman… what a story and what a cleverly crafted film!
The ‘sugarman’ in the movie is the Detroit singer/songwriter Sixto Rodriguez who produced two albums in the early 70’s that flopped on the US market but somehow got traction in the southern hemisphere and in South Africa in particular where he was ‘bigger than Elvis.’ But the singer never knew it and never received any royalties. Indeed there were rumours that he had committed suicide on stage in his anguish.
The truth lay somewhere else and the movie documents the process of discovery and eventual invitation to perform in concert in South Africa.
The man they found was a humble construction worker (with a degree in Philosophy!) who, even under the new spotlight, seems to be unaffected by it all – still living in the very humble house he has lived in for 40 years. His three daughters feature in the film and paint a picture of an honest man who even surprised them!
It is a very good film and of interest to people whether they know his music or not.
I was introduced to Rodriguez in 1980 by a friend. The album she gave me to listen to was Rodriguez’s second album Coming from Reality. I immediately loved it and there are songs on it that remain some of my favourites all these years later… Climb upon my music and in particular, To whom it may concern. I purchased Cold Fact, his earlier album, a year or so later. His social comment and songs from the pit are quite profound.
I chanced upon a cassette tape of Coming from Reality in the late-80’s but only managed to find a CD of it in the last few years. It is well-worth listening to! The movie fortunately plays a lot of his songs!