Sometimes the plot twists of reality trump fiction — big time! Imagine this: A musician toils for years without getting any recognition, gives up on his music — hangs up his guitar as it were, for a job as a construction worker — and resigns himself to living a life of obscurity, unappreciated…no, unheard of, in his own country.
Meanwhile, half a world away, in South Africa, unknown to him and the rest of the world, his music — in two albums produced in the 1970s — becomes a symbol of hope and freedom, a way to protest against a repressive apartheid regime. He becomes a rock god to a people clamoring for change and searching for meaning.
This is the basic premise of Searching for Sugar Man, a documentary about Sixto Rodriguez, a Mexican American musician whose songs would have remained undiscovered by the whole world, had not some fans — a music journalist and a record store owner — decided to go digging for information about the musician and his life.
The ultimate result is this movie. I watched this tonight and was blown away by the sheer implausibility and absurdity of the story. It boggles my mind how a man of his amazing talent did not make it big, when lesser musicians have gone on to become rock legends! For that matter, it’s also stretching the bounds of storytelling that his music ends up becoming the anthems of a nation on the other side of the world, without anyone knowing about it. And yet it happened. Talk about truth being way stranger than fiction!
So go watch this movie! If you’re in Singapore, it’s still showing at Bugis+. Hurry before they replace it with some dreck.
Oh, and buy the soundtrack! What’s his music like? If Bob Dylan, James Taylor and maybe Leonard Cohen had a threesome and produced a son, it’s Rodriguez. Melodic, poetic, and haunting, Rodriquez’s music evokes the folk troubadours of the 1960s with the rock grittiness of Dylan and Paul Simon. His songs are both of his time and light years ahead of it.
Searching for Sugar Man is a fantastic story of how sheer genius will always reveal itself to the world, one way or the other.