Most of you don’t know this but Jeff Bergau, founder of Altered Stage and a dear friend of mine, is the reason why I started playing the bass. He is so passionate when he talks about music, not to mention he is also an incredible bass player. “Why don’t you take a lesson?” – he asked me when I said I don’t play an instrument. Now I steal songs from him when we play at Reggies. 🙂
In one of our recent conversations about music an artist came up: Rodriguez. I had no idea who he was, had not heard any of his songs until Jeff said to me: “Check out this documentary – Searching for Sugar Man – it’s one of the craziest, most inspirational things I’ve ever watched”.
So I went on YouTube and started typing “Sugar Man”. His lyrics immediately transpose you to different times, the bass line is so cool and his story just blows your mind.
Sixto Rodriguez gave up music after his two albums bombed. He started doing construction work and while working on a building site in Detroit, Michigan, he discovered he was bigger than The Rolling Stones – in South Africa.
“South Africa in the early 1970s was a very restrictive society,” says Stephen Segerman, a former Johannesburg jeweler who made it his mission to track down Rodriguez – a sort of a mystery man in South Africa. Other than his music, people knew nothing about “Rodriguez”. They had no idea what he looked like, where he lived, or anything about his personal life. However his songs were touching so many. His music started an anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and his songs were used in protests. Then, he just vanished. Without a trace. Right after his second album came out. He was believed to have set himself on fire on stage. Some even thought he blew his brains out.
As revealed in “Searching for Sugar Man” documentary, the Michigan singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez faded into obscurity after recording two folk-soul albums, Cold Fact (1970) and Coming from Reality (1971). Without his knowledge, both albums had become classics in South Africa, selling an estimated half-million copies.
Stephen “Sugar Man” Segerman and journalist Craig Bartholomew began their search after they discovered, to their surprise, that Rodriguez was unknown in his home country and after months of fake leads, that he was actually alive.
“Searching for Sugar Man” made Rodriguez an international star, but it’s still unclear why he did not benefit financially from his record sales.
With his reputation restored and newly found recognition, he now plays all over the world and his shows get sold out in minutes. And seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, you gotta watch “Searching for Sugar Man”!