Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Searching for Sugar Man," Or, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country."

I just watched the DVD of the film Searching for Sugar Man. From the Wikipedia article:

"Searching for Sugar Man is a Swedish-British documentary film directed by Malik Bendjelloul, which details the efforts of two Cape Town fans in the late nineteen-nineties, Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, to find out if the rumored death of American musician Sixto Rodriguez was true, and, if not, to discover what had become of him. Rodriguez's music, which never took off in the United States, had become wildly popular in South Africa, but little was known about him there.

On 10 February 2013, the film won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary at the 66th British Academy Film Awards in London, and two weeks later it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood."

And from the Wikipedia article on Sixto Rodriguez:

"In 1967 (under the name Rod Riguez) he released the single "I'll Slip Away" through the small label, Impact. He did not produce anything for another three years until he was signed to Sussex Records, an offshoot of Buddah records. It was after the move to Sussex that he changed his professional name to just Rodríguez. Rodríguez recorded two albums with Sussex: Cold Fact in 1970 and Coming from Reality in 1971. But after both of his albums sold very few copies, he was quickly dropped from the label, which folded in 1975. At the time of his release from the contract, Rodríguez was in the process of completing a third album which has yet to be released. After this happened, Sixto discontinued his music career and stayed in Detroit. There, he worked in several industries that revolved around manual labor such as demolition, yet always stayed close to a state of poverty....

"After failing to make an impact in North America, Rodríguez gave up his career as a musician. However, although he was relatively unknown in his home country, by the mid-1970s, his albums were starting to gain airplay in South AfricaBotswanaRhodesiaNew Zealand, and Australia.
After imported copies of his Sussex albums ran dry, an Australian record label, Blue Goose Music, bought the Australian rights to his back catalogue in the mid-1970s. Blue Goose released his two studio albums plus a compilation album At His Best (featuring unreleased recordings from 1973 "Can't Get Away", "I'll Slip Away" [a rerecording of his first single], and "Street Boy").
With a new buzz around Rodriguez, in 1979 he toured Australia with the Mark Gillespie Band as support. Two shows from the tour were later released on the Australian-only album Alive—the title being a play on the rumors caused by his public obscurity that he had died years ago. After the ’79 tour, he returned to Australia for a final tour in 1981 with Midnight Oil before quietly slipping back into normal life.
Unbeknownst to Rodríguez, "At His Best" went platinum in South Africa, which at one stage was the major disk-press interest supplying his music to the rest of the world. He would often be compared to successful contemporaries such as Bob Dylan. Additionally, some of his songs came to serve as anti-Apartheid anthems in South Africa,[4] where his work influenced many musicians who protested the government. It has been reported that anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko was a Rodríguez fan.[5]
" In 1991, both his albums were released on CD in South Africa for the first time, which helped perpetuate his already existent fame. However, even in South Africa, few details of his life were known to his fans and it was widely rumored and believed that Rodríguez had killed himself during a concert in the 1970s.
Despite the magnitude of his success abroad, Rodríguez's fame in South Africa had remained completely unknown to him until 1998, when his eldest daughter came across a website dedicated to him.[6] After coming into contact with the authors of the website and learning of his long-standing fame in the country, Sixto went on his first South African tour, playing six concerts in front of thousands of fans. A documentary about the tour, Dead Men Don't Tour: Rodríguez in South Africa 1998, was later screened on SABC TV in 2001. Later he played in Sweden before returning to South Africa in 2001 and 2005.

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