Saturday was a great day in San Francisco. It was unseasonably warm and as the sun shone all over the city, which is rare any time of the year. After spending much of the day at the beach my girlfriend and I headed to the movies to check out a documentary that’s been much buzzed about, Searching for Sugarman. If you haven’t seen it you definitely should. I first heard about it when I saw the filmmaker and the subject profiled on 60 Minutes. It tells the mystifying story of Sixto Rodriguez and how after making two records he faded into obscurity. (Warning after this paragraph there are some definite spoiler alerts. So if you want to see the movie and don’t want to know anything about it, then stop reading now. You’ve been warned.)
That isn’t altogether that meaningful considering so many artists make music and never get discovered. What’s rare is how great the music was. The lyrics resemble something Bob Dylan would write and some in the movie say, ‘His lyrics put Dylan to shame.” I’m not sure I would go that far. Not that I don’t think they’re brilliant, but two albums worth is a very small sample size to compare to a defining legacy. That being said the lyrics speak of stark times and primarily revolve around the working poor of Detroit, Michigan.
What I found to be the most intriguing part of the film was how popular Rodriguez was in South Africa. During Apartheid he was a figure of great importance to those that wanted equal rights for all and yet he had no idea what was happening. After half a million records sold there he saw none of the profits. This is a man that could’ve been one of the greatest artists of all time and yet today he is still doing the hard, manual labor he’s been doing for forty years. There’s something to be said for recognizing talent and watching it slip through the cracks.
Perhaps one of the biggest revelations of the movie was that he isn’t bitter at all. He seems very congenial and happy with the way his life turned out. He is very much anchored in reality. He doesn’t seek to blame people for the fact that he didn’t make it as the rock star he should’ve been and as sad a fact as that is; it is also extremely admirable that someone would have such a wonderful outlook on life considering what might have been. After seeing the film I realized that I haven’t been spending nearly enough time covering newer artists so I will be making a concerted effort to reviewing and covering talented artists under the radar. As for the movie I suggest you go see, especially if you want to call yourself a music lover.
Listen to this song, it happens to be my favorite Rodriguez track: