Stop what you are doing right this second if you haven’t yet seen the Academy Award winning documentary “Searching for Sugarman”. I don’t care if you download it, find it on Netflix or Apple TV or wherever it is, but run and get it, sit down and be still.
It is a rare treat in the music business to have a story this outrageous and fantastic turn out with the proverbial “happy ending” but it has.
If you’ve been under a rock and haven’t heard of “Searching for Sugarman” it is the unlikely – really, preposterous, true story of an American singer from Detroit named Sixto Rodriguez who released 2 albums that went nowhere fast in the early 70s. Rodriguez, unbeknownst to him or anyone in America, in the most unlikely turn of events, became a beloved and hugely influential figure a la Bob Dylan in South Africa during the transition from the poisonous apartheid system and the fight for civil rights in that country beginning decades ago. While Rodriguez was the sound track to their civil rights movement, the Rodriguez stories – the legend believed by his South African die hard fans was that he was dead by his own hand or drugs, or by self-immolation – no one really knew. Were that not outrageous enough a tale, the truth was harsh enough. During Rodriguez’ musical ascendency in South Africa, Rodriguez was living a quiet life in Detroit as a day laborer, with a family, with not a clue about his status as the superstar in South Africa.
The unlikely story of how Rodriguez fans searched for the truth behind the mystery of the man and his death and how they set out to find out about him is the stuff of this documentary. Not only do you see Rodriguez found, you get to go with him on a triumphant visit and tour of South Africa. I don’t want to give too much more away, but suffice to say, Sixto Rodriguez, his beautiful music, his genuine modesty in the face of this unbelievable situation and his grace all make this story an astonishing tale of redemption and acceptance. Because there has to be, there’s even a bad guy in the music business that shows his cards, but you need to see it to believe it.
The happy endings in this documentary are many. “Searching for Sugarman” makes you believe in a divine intervention that occasionally unfolds in unexpected ways. Rodriguez as a human being is just such a beautiful soul, you are weeping for his long time coming recognition. I don’t want to say much more.
Now, Rodriguez is on tour and will hopefully never have to do demolition work again. When the producer of the documentary won and gave his acceptance speech onstage he said Rodriguez had declined to come to the Oscars because it really wasn’t about him. But it is. Don’t miss this documentary if you believe in music , its’ magic and that occasional musician who can turn the world upside down. Rodriguez did that. I can’t wait until he performs here in the US again.
Here is a little taste of Rodriguez’s music
Learn more about Sixto Rodriguez on his website: