Friday, February 15, 2013

Malik Bendjelloul: Searching for Sugar Man

Malik Bendjelloul's Searching for Sugar Man (2012) presents the compelling tale of Detroit singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez (b. 1942) and his impact in South Africa. Neglected in the USA, his albums Cold Fact (1970) and Coming from Reality (1971), recorded in Detroit and orginally distibuted by Sussex Records, eventually went big in South Africa and Australia. Meanwhile, back in Detroit, Rodriguez worked construction jobs and lived frugally for most of his years since the inititial album releases, with only sporadic live shows and the occasional overseas junket.  

As for the songs, they feel like a mix of Bob Dylan, Donovan, James Taylor and José Feliciano, as conceived by Rodriguez. Some of them have off-the-wall accompaniment, reminding me of David Essex and his strange 1973 hit, "Rock On" and, again, Donovan. They must have had an impact on the Detroit music scene upon first release. Certainly the title "Inner City Blues" (1970) reappears on Marvin Gaye's 1971 blockbuster album, What's Going On, as "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)."   

In Searching for Sugar Man, Detroit looks terribly beautiful. Rodriguez has an eccentric, enigmatic persona, at turns like Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan. Weird, man. His construction buddies are hilarious, especially Rick Emmerson's pithy observations -- he'd be a great person to interview. Rodriguez' daughters are fantastic, very heartwarming people with a touch of bittersweet -- Eva, Sandra and Regan. I love them! Overall, Searching for Sugar Man is a wild ride to and fro the pumpkin patch and back again.

Today's Rune: Signals.          


Erik Donald France said...

When Rodriguez sings of the world, I get the gist:

"How many times can you wake up in this comic book and plant flowers?"

the walking man said...

Maybe he could run for mayor and this time they would spell his name correctly on the ballot.

Honestly I had to go to youtube to hear his work and wikipedia to read about him. My very first thought was Great! Another hometown guy showing the world what Detroit really is. And then it occurs to me that, like MoTown, techno, house music, and the auto industry *sigh* he'll be a'movin on down the line now.

In my own defense when he was playing in Detroit were the years I was mostly gone.

BUt I have to admit now that I have heard him and read some of his lyric, he s Detroit. Long great and widely ignored.

Much success to him now, may America embrace him as the anti-apartheid movement did thirty years ago.