There is always a sense of excitement when a new artist or band comes on the scene, but how do people react when a rediscovered talent appears in the lime light again? Searching for Sugar Man (2012) is an inspiring and remarkable documentary on the story of a 1970’s folk singer named Rodriguez. The documentary is not just about the music of this talented soul but also of the mystery which was surrounded by him. Spotted performing in Detroit by two music producers they signed him onto their label ‘Sussex Records’ straight away as he was such an incredibly unique folk singerand guitarist. He released two albums from this record label in 1970 and 1971, one called ‘Cold Fact’ and another which is entitled ‘Coming from Reality’. On the album cover of ‘Cold Fact’ Rodriguez was on the front cover, sitting down, wearing sunglasses and the album cover was acknowledged to Sixto Rodriguez. From thefront of the vinyl it was unsure what his face looked like, how tall he was and where he was from. He had a Puerto Rican appearance so no one was entirely sure whether he was American or not. The album had no success in America, only a few copies were sold. After the little impact Rodriguez music had on America he decided to give up singing and song writing and focussed on his construction job, where at least his manual labour skills were acknowledged by others.
Strangely on the other side of the world in apartheid South Africa, Rodriguez album‘Cold Fact’ was a bigger hit than The Beatles ‘Abbey Road’. Rumour has it that oneof the only people who bought his album ‘Cold Fact’ in America had a boyfriend in South Africa, which she sent over to him. Rodriguez music dealt with oppression and the lyrics told a tale of loneliness, depression and the reliance of drugs to bring colour into his life. His most famous song in South Africa ‘Sugar Man’ includes lyrics which probably related to how those in apartheid were feeling. ‘Sugar man met a false friend, on a lonely dusty road. Lost my heart, when I found it, it had turned to dead black coal.’ It is the same with any music; neglected blacks of America may turn to hip hop as the artists who sing it feel what the public do too. Even though Rodriguez was a famous household name in South Africa and sold millions ofalbums, no one knew where the royalties were going. This lead to a suspicion that Sixto Rodriguez had died, there were rumours of him shooting himself on a stage and of covering himself in petrol and setting himself on fire. This is where the most remarkable part of the story happens.
Two decades later in South Africa, record shop owner Stephen ‘Sugar’ Sergman followed Rodriguez music religiously and was fascinated with the mystery surrounding his disappearance. He started putting adverts in his vinyl cases asking the public for any information on the singer. One person contacted him; he was Craig Bartholomew – Strydom who is a music journalist in Cape Town. He was beginning to write an article on the mystery that was Rodriguez’s death. They teamed up and tried to locate any information that they could about sugar man. From researching his lyrics, to creating adverts and forums about him and travelling the world to find out anything they could about the mysterious singer. In 1998 they were rewarded, when Rodriguez eldest daughter contacted the two and explained how it was her father. Rodriguez then phoned Stephen in the early hours of the morning and explained his story. Sergman and Bartholomew – Strydom then agreed to fly Sixto out to South Africa to play concerts as he was such a sensation.