Golden Lady searches for Sugar Man

Golden Lady checked out Searching For Sugar Man:

About 15 years ago I stumbled aimlessly into a record shop in Kings Cross, Sydney. A tiny space filled to the brim with dusty vinyl classics, such as Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Having already hijacked my dad’s collection, I had most of these legendary recordings already safely stored. What I was searching for that day was a real gem, a hidden classic. Something that would be my little secret.

I got chatting with the guy behind the counter, he asked me if I’d heard of a folk singer from America called Rodriguez, I replied that I hadn’t. He then went on to explain how it was a staple in his collection, how he was the Mexican Dylan and that he’d never garnered the respect, nor success, that he truly deserved. I was immediately intrigued and, no sooner than five minutes later, I was leaving the record store holding my very first copy of Cold Fact. Rodriguez’s first album.

Inevitably, it too, became a staple in my collection, a beautiful, heartfelt and timeless folk record. Sugar Man, even today, remains one of my all time favourite songs. A curious, whimsical tune entailing all sorts of drug pseudonyms and insinuations: “Silver magic ships you carry, jumpers, coke, sweet mary jane”. However, even though Cold Fact was surely one of my favourite albums, the fact remained back then, and up until, well… now… that I, nor any of my friends who had copies of this album, knew anything at all about this folk magician.

Was he actually American? Was he still alive? Had he made any other records? I suppose the mystery only added to the overall intrigue and admiration. But Rodriguez deserves more than that, more than being just a handful of people’s hidden musical gem. This is why Searching for Sugar Man stands out as one of the most important rockumentaries of our time.

A couple of South African music enthusiasts set out to unravel the mystery that is Rodriguez, and to their genuine surprise, they embark on an extraordinary tale of untold truths. But more importantly, what they do is bring the magic of the this folk troubadour to the people. We discover more than just a performer, we discover a deeply humbled and inspiring soul, who possesses something of an illuminated spirit.

It’s all too often that terms ‘drifter’, ‘poet’ or ‘nomad’ are bandied around irresponsibly, usually describing some posed or half genuine artist. But how often do you truly feel the subject is worthy of the honour? There can only be so many. Sixto Rodriguez is one of those, a true wanderer, shuffling his long legs across the streets of Detroit or gazing all knowingly into the camera.

Through whatever strange twist of fate, it turns out that this particular drifter is destined for failure and success in equal measure. We discover throughout the film’s journey that he is hailed as somewhat of a Christ-like figure in South Africa. Stunningly bizarre when you consider that he is barely recognised as a member of his own community, let alone an esteemed musician in America. Well, unbeknownst to him, he goes on to inspire an entire nation of people, whom at the time are suffering some profound political injustices. He provides them with a soundtrack to their own 60’s revolution.

And with any luck, through this film alone, the music of Sixto Rodriguez will be resurrected and go on to inspire and enlighten an entire new generation of music lovers, this time, outside of South Africa.

Words by Golden Lady