Last night I had the chance to watch the Academy Award winning documentary "Searching for Sugar Man". What an inspiration! Rodriguez is a young Mexican-American man living in Detroit in the early 1970's. He is a singer / songwriter who pays the bills by doing manual labor in the construction world. A music promoter hears him one foggy night at a smokey bar in Detroit. That promoter knows a good thing when he hears it and signs Rodriguez on. Rodriguez has a compelling voice and writes music that is haunting and significant.
For some unknown reason, this album, which should have taken off, pretty much flops. Before the flop is recognized the record company has signed Rodriguez on for a second album. Two weeks before Christmas, Rodriguez is notified that the record company is going belly up. So ends Rodriguez's music career. Or so it would seem.
Rodriguez's life goes on, including the acquisition of a degree in philosophy and the addition of three daughters to his life. What no one realizes is that his original album found its way to South Africa. These were the tense and difficult closing days of apartheid in South Africa and the music that Rodriguez had created formed the most appropriate anthem for the anti-apartheid movement. Because there was a world wide boycott of South Africa, many people were not aware of the influence of this American singer in that place. In fact, the urban myth had developed that said that Rodriguez had blown his brains out on stage in America (or burned himself alive on stage - take your choice).
"Searching for Sugar Man" is Rodriquez's story. I am so enamored with this man. His music resonates with me but his attitude and his humbleness are what entirely captivate me. In some ways, his music reminds me of Dylan (without the raspy voice) but Rodriquez is a man who is not living the "rock and roll myth". When the music career seemed to cave, Rodriquez went on with his life. The film suggests the devotion he has for his daughters and the committment he has to his communtiy. We need more people in the world like Rodriguez.
This is one of my favorite songs of his: