The Spectacle Blog

Thoughts on Searching for Sugar Man

By on 10.21.12 | 11:58PM

This afternoon, my roomie Christopher and I attended the documentary Searching for Sugar Man.

The documentary is about Rodriguez (a.ka. Sixto Rodriguez), a Detroit born musician who released two albums in the early 1970s. However, these albums sold poorly and Rodriguez was dropped from the record label. Rodriguez then spent most of the next quarter century working as a day laborer. 

However, unbeknownst to Rodriguez, his debut album Cold Fact somehow became the one of the best selling albums in South Africa of all time. Yet most South Africans assumed that Rodriguez was dead. The urban legend was that Rodriguez had committed suicide on stage. The documentary focuses on the efforts of two of his South African fans efforts to find out what happened to Rodriguez and the results are beyond the expectations of all involved. I wouldn't be surprised if this gets an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary.

You may have seen the recent profile of Rodriguez on 60 Minutes.

Yes, his politics are quite left-wing but I think his story is really compelling. It is a more dramatic version of what recently happened to a local poet I've known for more than a decade. Some of his poems were translated into Albanian and, lo and behold, he was invited to Kosovo to read his poems this past summer. So he is a celebrity in Kosovo but toils in obscurity in Cambridge.

But what matters most to me is the music. I think his voice is a cross between Dylan and Donovan. But the arrangements, especially on his debut album, are ethereal and psychadelic. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have Dennis Coffey (himself an unappreciated music legend) co-producing his album. Have a listen to "Crucify Your Mind".

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