Searching for Sugar Man

Last year’s much-buzzed-about documentary Searching For Sugar Man told the story of Rodriguez, a talented though obscure folk musician from Detroit who put out two very poorly-selling albums in the early seventies and then disappeared. Doesn’t sound like much of a story, right? Talented musicians fail to hit it big all the time, so what’s the big deal? Well, it turns out, as Rodriguez spent the last few decades performing manual labor in obscurity here in the States, in South Africa he was a best-selling artist and cultural icon on par with Elvis and The Beatles. The thing is, nobody there knew that he was a nobody over here, and nobody here knew he was a somebody over there, until a South African journalist put two and two together and set up a big show for Rodriguez in his home country. Thus, a documentary was born.

The other notable thing about Rodriguez’s story is just how good the small handful of songs he wrote were. Anyone who worked with him talks about his songwriting like he’s a talent on par with a Bob Dylan or a Paul Simon, but for some reason his releases never connected with an American audience, so instead of getting tons of new material from him over the past few decades like we have from Dylan and Simon, with Rodriguez we’ve got nothing but silence. It kind of feels like we got screwed.

There might be a pot of musical gold at the end of this fairly shitty rainbow though. If Rodriguez’s discovery that he’s a big star in South Africa represented a second chance at life for the musician, the release of Searching For Sugar Man might end up being his third. It’s basically impossible to watch the documentary and not want to listen to Rodriguez’s music, and once you’ve listened to his measly two albums it’s basically impossible not to want to look for more. Honestly, just search your news feeds for friends who have watched the doc. Guaranteed they’re sharing Rodriguez tracks from Spotify the next day.

All of this interest has led not just to Rodriguez doing a couple of small tours across the country, but, according to Rolling Stone [via The AV Club], he’s also now meeting with producers to possibly put together a long-in-coming if not long-awaited third album. In an interview with the mag, Rodriguez revealed that he has been in touch with Steve Rowland, the man who produced his 1971 album “Coming From Reality,” and he relayed the news that “he told me to send him a couple of tapes, so I’m gonna do that. I certainly want to look him up, because now he’s full of ideas.”

Why so suddenly full of ideas? Because Searching For Sugar Man is one of the films nominated in the Best Documentary category at the Academy Awards, and a win could lead to even more spotlight being shone on this once forgotten singer/songwriter. Given all the attention, it was probably only a matter of time before somebody started hearing cash register noises at the thought of new Rodriguez music. Perhaps if the new album gets made and sells well it could serve as the basis for a Searching For Sugar Man sequel? Yeah, now we’re thinking like executives.


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