In what looks like one of the most interesting documentaries music wise this year, “Searching For Sugarman” seems like it won’t disappoint. This documentary probes deep inside the mysterious 70’s rocker Rodriguez, known for his song ‘Sugarman”, which I discovered on a David Holmes mix some years ago. You were either in the Detroit music scene in the early seventies, or happened to see him play during the time period of his two records (Cold Fact from 1970 and Coming From Reality from 1971) to have remembered this folk rock magician. While not easily recognized here in the United States by many (and projected to be bigger than the Beatles) he was a dud unfortunately on American soil. However, Rodriguez was bigger than Elvis in South Africa. Rodriguez’s music was taken in by the people of anti-apartheid South Africa, a Bob Dylan meets Cat Stevens for their cause.
Searching for Sugarman tells the tale of the rise and fall, and rise again of musician Sixto Rodriguez. The film’s director Malik Bendjelloul nearly went broke making it until he got a grant from the Swedish Film Council and Sony Classics picked it up, another labor of love tale that seems to be coming to fruition. That similarity to Rodriguez’s career (albeit some thirty years later), both rising above eventually, filmmaker and film subject, make this film something special. For record collectors, especially those who enjoyed releases on the Sussex label and Dennis Coffey’s production involvement in those specific Rodriguez’s Lps, you may find a special spot in your heart (as well as your turntable) for this obscure giant. I have a feeling though, that Searching for Sugarman will be a break through documentary and be embraced by not just record collectors, but the public as well. This one of a kind, human interest story is not something you read about or see every day. If Standing In the Shadows of Motown made the genius of the back beat of Motown’s records come to light, this film will no doubt introduce another unknown Detroit genius in Sixto Rodriguez. By the way, the man never saw any royalties before 1998 on any of his music. This is a guy who had been performing since the ’60s. That’s sad in itself. Also look for the soundtrack on Light In the Attic Records. Great stuff.