Meeting Rodriguez, dressed head to toe in black and wearing sunglasses seemingly designed to protect him from the glare of a Western sunset, is like meeting a super-hip uncle you never knew you had. He presents the crinkled hand that looks like it has lifted a thousand cinder blocks and strummed endless gentle guitar chords, and smiles broadly.
There’s nothing better than a good old rock ‘n’ roll Cinderella story, with evil executives screwing singers and songwriters out of their earnings, rock stars falling into oblivion, and a final comeback from obscurity into a well-deserved fame and recognition. The story of Rodriguez (née Sixto Díaz Rodríguez, because he was the sixth child of his family) is exactly like that, only better, because the hero is a 70 year-old Latin rock star.
An American woman in a modest black cocktail dress has wolfish green eyes that flash with neurotic sincerity as she tells me about struggles over food security in California and sweat lodges and how she now lives in Wilderness in the Cape and misses her family. We’re on the Festival shuttle bus going to see Searching for Sugar Man – the brand new documentary about seventies singer-songwriter Rodriguez, the Latino Dylan who, bizarrely, was only ever popular in this country. “He’s much bigger than Elvis and the Rolling Stones here,” someone claims in the film. It’s true-ish. His extraordinary record Cold Fact (1970) has gone platinum here ten times over. Anyway, I’m humouring her, thinking ah another Festival kook, when I hear her say, “My father’s seventy now but he’s still in good shape. He’s still a handsome man.”
Re-Machined: A Tribute to Machine Head is the star attraction in Classic Rock’s upcoming Deep Purple Fanpack.
Hear official, all-new recordings of the band’s classic 1972 album performed by Metallica, Iron Maiden, Chickenfoot, Black Label Society, Kings of Chaos, the Flaming Lips, Steve Vai, Jimmy Barnes & Joe Bonamassa plus Glenn Hughes & Chad Smith.
1. Smoke On The Water – Carlos Santana / Jacoby Shaddix 2. Highway Star – Chickenfoot 3. Maybe I’m A Leo – Glenn Hughes / Chad Smith 4. Pictures of Home – Black Label Society 5. Never Before – Kings of Chaos 6. Smoke On The Water – The Flaming Lips 7. Lazy – Jimmy Barnes with Joe Bonamassa 8. Space Truckin’ – Iron Maiden 9. When A Blind Man Cries – Metallica
Plus, exclusive to this special edition:
10. Highway Star – Steve Vai, Glenn Hughes, Chad Smith, Lauchlan Doley
Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching for Sugar Man is everything a documentary should be: poignant, passionate, and honest. It’s a successful treasure hunt for a dead man that spans two continents, and provides an ending Rudy Ruettiger would be proud of. It’s a story about the power of music, the power of living without regret, and the power of possibility. And it’s all true.
You’ve heard every story there is to tell? How about this one? A Swedish guy makes a documentary in 2012 about a 70s folkster from Detroit who returns from obscurity after discovering that he has a large, devoted audience in South Africa. The film culminates in a cathartic 1998 concert marking the musician’s first significant performance in 27 years to an audience who thought that he had died! The film is critically aclaimed and makes big waves in the US and the UK but, and here’s the rub, nobody in South Africa knows that it exists!
Director Malik Bendjelloul intended to make a 10-minute segment about Rodriguez, an unlikely Seventies musical icon, for Swedish television. Instead, he spent four years of his life making Searching for Sugar Man, an acclaimed new documentary about the forgotten star whose protest music circulated widely throughout South Africa – eventually inspiring the anti-apartheid protest movement – but who remained entirely unaware of his popularity.
There are several entrancing mysteries circulating in “Searching for Sugar Man,” a hugely appealing documentary about fans, faith and an enigmatic Age of Aquarius musician who burned bright and hopeful before disappearing. One mystery involves its title subject, a Detroit singer-songwriter known as Rodriguez who, after being discovered in a dive bar, cut a well-regarded record in 1969. The album, “Cold Fact,” earned good reviews and four Billboard stars, but it bombed in the United States, and Rodriguez faded from view. Where he went and why are just a few of the questions that a Swedish filmmaker, Malik Bendjelloul, sought in answering the riddle of Rodriguez.