As far as I am aware, there are not many films made about 70 year-old men from Detroit, Michigan with a Wikipedia profile listing them as a singer-songwriter, guitarist, poet, excavation worker, and demolition worker. Searching for Sugar Man (2012) documents the quite unusual story of Sixto Rodriguez, who fits that very profile.
As a musical artist he became a star without even realizing it. How? While at the time he remained relatively unknown in the United States, Rodriguez became a household name in South Africa and Australia. Over the years, false rumors about his alleged suicide morphed and spread among his fans, without the artist even being aware of their existence to discredit them. Thus the search to discover what actually ever happened to “Sugar Man” began, and two fans found him—alive and kicking and unaware of his own, significant following.
The film, directed by Malik Bendjelloul, of course features the music of the artist himself, pulling from his two studio albums Cold Fact (1970) and Coming From Reality (1971) released by Sussex Records. Honestly, I had not had much interest in listening to any sort of Folk Rock or Americana up until recently, but Rodriguez was definitely the one to change that. His style of sound is often compared with the likes of Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens, and I’d say that’s a very appropriate likening. It’s a very particular style, but each song manages to be completely different from the one before it. It’s one of those situations where my favorite song on the soundtrack always happens to be the one that’s playing, but I suppose the song I actively choose to listen to the most is “Sandrevan Lullaby – Lifestyles.”
What is perhaps most compelling about Rodriguez is his natural blend of modesty and profoundness. Not only was he for so many years completely oblivious to his own fame and popularity, but even during his time of belated popularity within the States when he started performing again, he remained content with the humble lifestyle he had lived up until his rediscovery. When the documentary, part of which was actually filmed on an iPhone app, came out and began receiving awards, including an Oscar for Best Documenary, he refused to take credit for its success. It’s a sincere tone that seeps into his work as well. It’s what makes a single voice and the simple strumming of a guitar reach out to entire nations of people and cross boundaries of time.
-E, Blog Director