Thirsty Thursday Midtown. Have a drink on me.
Sooo… “Searching For Sugar Man” the documentary… I forgot I had to work late tonight. We arrived for the movie a little late. As we sat in our seats the movie took off. The musician “Rodriguez” made a couple of albums in the late 60’s and early 70’s. All though the music was well received by critics, the albums sold nowhere… except in South Africa. In South Africa his albums and music exploded. “Rodriguez” in South Africa is considered bigger than Dylan, bigger than The Stones, and even bigger than Elvis. Many musicians in South Africa were inspired to play by “Rodriguez”. Yet no one knows who the mysterious “Rodriguez” is. It is rumored that the rock star committed suicide on stage with a gun / set himself on fire on stage / or ingested poison while performing his last show. No one knows the exact story. Two fans begin a quest to track down the rock star “Rodriguez”.
Follow the money. The fans talk to record labels, trying to uncover exactly how their hero died. They come up empty. Nobody is giving answers. The musician sold several “hundred thousand albums” in South Africa, but those in the know are not giving any answers on who “Rodriguez” really is. They search out song lyrics looking for answers to his identity and come up with various cities he sings about, but these leads do not pan out. There is even a website published to help find answers. The case is finally broken when the artists’ daughter reveals online that “Rodriguez” is her father and he is… ALIVE. He is a day laborer, living in Detroit, having given up on a music career decades ago.
The fans interview him and convince Sixto Rodriguez that he MUST come to South Africa to perform a concert. In the documentary, the musicians daughter comments how she “hopes” at least 20 people show up for the concert. When Rodriguez and his family exit the airplane, they attempt to walk around limousines parked in front of the plane. They discover the limo’s are for them! He is treated like a celebrity in South Africa. Not only do 20 people show up for the concert, THOUSANDS show up for the concert. Some fans who purchase tickets for the show do not believe the real Sixto Rodriguez will show up. Even the music industry in South Africa believes only an imposter will appear. This cannot be real. It is as if Elvis has come back from the dead and is putting on a show.
The best part of the documentary is the actual footage of the first show performed in South Africa. Thousands of fans are going crazy for a musician who didn’t even know he had fans, much less thousands of them. And Sixto Rodriguez is not phased by the audience’s reaction. He gets on stage, plays his music and shakes hands with the fans. This is one cool operator.
Sixto has no money, and lives very modestly by choice. He has given away the money he has made from the concerts to family and friends. One side of the world he is a nobody. On the other side of the world, he is a superstar, known by all. Even his co-workers in the States comment in the film they thought he was making this rock star stuff up, until they saw the pictures of large entertainment venues filled to capacity with fans to see him.
See this movie if you can. Truth really is stranger than fiction. “Searching For Sugar Man” is available at ITunes, as well as other sites. And thank you Brooks Museum for making this film available to the public.