Searching For Sugar Man…You'll Be Amazed At What You Find.
Last night we had dinner at a great tapis restaurant called Relish with my daughter Star and her old man Ben. During the course of the conversation she told me about this documentary they had seen on Netflix called Searching For Sugar Man.
According to my daughter this is a film about this amazing singer songwriter named (Sixto) Rodriguez who made a couple of albums in the early 1970s and then just disappeared, because his albums didn’t sell worth a damn.
But through some weird miracle, one of his albums found its way to South Africa during the apartheid protests movement, and through bootlegging ended up becoming incredibly popular. The songs became anthem for those seeking racial equality there, and the enigmatic songwriter became a true cultural hero, despite the fact that he had never performed there and nobody really knew who he was or how to contact him.
In actuality, Rodriguez didn’t even know that his music had gained such an exalted status until almost 20 years later when he was tracked down by a journalist who became obsessed with finding out about him. Hence the title of the film.
Part exquisitely produced documentary, part mystery, part love story and part character profile this film really keeps you with it for two full hours.
But the undeniable highlights of the film are Rodriguez’s songs. They are so simple with an genuine ring of truth to them that I had to join the ranks of the heavy duty music people who simply could not understand why he did not take off in America.
As I watched this film and first heard Rodriguez’s sing, I sensed an uncanny and undeniable similarity to Bob Dylan in a general sort of way. But as I continued to listen, his songs took on a life of their own. They are masterpieces and even though they are close to fifty years old now, they still pack a wallop.
There was a good deal of legend that build up around Rodriguez at the time when South Africa was embracing his music, including a story of him actually shooting himself in the head on stage at the end of a concert. But as it turns out his real story, although not as sensational, is extremely compelling.
For music fans, and especially for Dylan fans, I can’t recommend this fine documentary strongly enough. Search it out on Netflix. It’s amazing.
The Couch Potato Chronicles is a review column I started in 1998. And though it has changed forms and home bases a number of times since then, I still pump one out every so often whenever I see something that I really think a lot of people will like.
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