Rodriguez’s magical transformation into a hero around the world has proved old South African hippies right — for once.
‘You know then,” said Stephen Segerman.
It was last Sunday morning and I’d spent the weekend googling recent developments in the story of Rodriguez, the construction worker who woke up one morning to discover he was actually a pop star in a parallel universe called Mzanzi. I checked his appearances on big-time American TV talk shows, scanned emotional fan mail on his website and watched several clips of foreign audiences erupting in standing ovations after screenings of Searching for Sugar Man, Malik Bendjelloul’s magical documentary about Rodriguez’s life, death and miraculous resurrection.
Somewhere along the line, it struck me that Rodriguez’s global triumph is actually a huge compliment to people like me — white South Africans born in the baby boom, raised on the apartheid moonbase and converted in the Sixties to the cause of long hair and teen rebellion. The rest of you would not get it, so I ran my idea past Segerman, who laughed and said: “You know then,” thereby identifying himself as an ex-hippie of exactly my own persuasion.
As the whole world is now aware, Segerman is the psychedelic music enthusiast who set out in the 1990s to unravel the mystery of the missing Sugar Man. Rodriguez was supposed to be dead, but Segerman and Craig Bartholomew found him living in poverty in Detroit’s ruined downtown and brought him back to South Africa, where he stood dazed and dumbfounded in an outpouring of love from thousands of fans who had waited decades to see his face.