Skip to content

Go See “Searching for Sugar Man” – the story of Sixto Rodriguez

November 16, 2012

This evening, for an hour and a half, I bumper-to-bumpered my way through rush hour to the nearest indy cinema to see the 6:35 p.m. viewing of “Searching for Sugar Man”, a documentary by Malik Bendjelloul. A good friend from NYC,  who has her finger on the pulse of many things art/literary, told me about the film a couple of months ago. She referred to it as “inspiring” and “electrifying” and it is. It’s also humbling and spiritual and re-affirming.

“Searching for Sugar Man” is the true story of an American singer/songwriter, Sixto Rodriguez, who in the early ’70s put out a few albums that didn’t catch on here in the States, despite top-shelf backing. But in South Africa, unknown to him or the American music industry, his lyrics and sound became the impetus in the youth culture that motivated them to dare to buck the system, at the height of apartheid, through their own rock and roll. To the South African youth, Rodriguez was more popular than the Stones, Elvis, Dylan or the Beatles, hands down. And, like Elvis, to them, he’d died tragically and young. Unlike Elvis, this wasn’t true. He was alive and well, living a laborer’s life in Detroit, his home city, after letting go of his music career because, as far as anyone in the U.S. knew, it didn’t take off.

Perhaps I’m late to the conversation, but for any who happen by this post who have not yet crossed paths with this film, to see it is to witness authentic existentialism. While it’s tremendously moving to see the footage of his performances in South Africa in the late ’90s, when Rodriguez is in his 60s (imagine the reaction of an audience if Elvis were suddenly alive and touring…), what is more dramatic to me is to witness Rodriguez’s grounded balance through it all. He is authentically himself throughout his life. Late in life fame doesn’t alter him one iota.

I’ve given away too much here, but I’m brimming with profound spiritual inspiration in these hours after having seen the film. I’m making myself stop now before I bring in Buddha and Jesus and suggest to you that Rodriguez, in our lifetime, exemplifies both.

Here are my favorite songs of his, so far.

The opening of this song resonates as a perfectly pitched-for-me Tibetan singing bowl. In melody and lyrics, it’s a simple but true love song. I invite you to focus on the word “you” and feel the intimacy that that word connotes when love is real.
I Think of You

Here is a catchy tune – the lyrics of which are again simple, but are not as light as the song may sound.
I Wonder

Dylan would have had some competition for the charts through the ’70s….
Crucify Your Mind
Like Janis

…Paul Simon, too…
Street Boy

Cause begs the question, “Have we made any progress in the past 40 years?”

I plan to buy “Rodriguez Cold Fact” as my introductory album. I don’t imagine I’ll stop my purchasing of his music there.

Please go to “Searching for Sugar Man” and see an amazing human spirit.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2012 9:37 am

    Reblogged this on The Boston Harbor Picayune and commented:
    Thanks for the great revue of this documenetary! It’s now on my list!


    • December 11, 2012 5:01 pm

      Hope you can find it still in the Boston area. I saw it in West Newton a few weeks ago but I think it’s left that theatre…It’s an amazing story and film!



  1. Saturday’s Song – Brittany Howard and Ruby Amanfu Cover Sixto Rodriguez’s “I Wonder” | sublime days

Share a thought!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: