Friday, October 12, 2012

Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

My sister Lynne is a singer. She plays in an R&B cover band with her husband, who plays drums, and they play around the city. Having seen them live on a number of occasions, I can attest that they're mighty awesome, and I'm not just saying that because I'm her brother and I get in for free. She's not young, which, to be honest, is probably an impediment in terms of getting discovered and becoming big, but I suspect that even if that never happens, it would be okay for her. 

She needed a creative outlet for a long time; she had trained in music when she was much younger (she went to the Fame school!) but had moved away from it for awhile. I distinctly remember her talking to me about how she needed to get back to her craft because the stress of her job was getting to her. Performing in the band has been a tremendous lift for her, and I suspect that has meant as much to her as any potential fame and fortune, if not more.

The delightful documentary Searching for Sugar Man is about a musician who discovered success in another country after striking out here, and though he could live like a king there, he chooses to live humbly here instead. Early 70s folk singer Rodriguez made two albums that didn't sell at all, and then he sort of disappeared. Why didn't they sell, though, especially when they sound as good as this?

No one knew what happened to him after those two albums; in fact, many people firmly believed he was dead! Certainly his music never hit anywhere in America. But what actually happened, and how he and his music were re-discovered, is a story that, if it were a Hollywood movie, would never be believed. I was gonna go into more detail about it, but I honestly think it's better if you discover the story on your own through this movie.

Rodriguez' sound is basically Dylan, if Dylan could sing - and that extends to his songwriting as well. Given that his albums came out during a time when folk music was at the peak of its popularity, it's hard to believe he never caught on. His music is well-featured in Sugar Man, accompanied with beautiful panoramic shots of Detroit and Cape Town, South Africa, as well as a few brief animated sequences. The look of this film is quite unique and lively.

John recommended Sugar Man to me, excitedly e-mailing me about it and saying that I gotta see it, and in a way, this is appropriate too. John's always been two steps ahead of me in terms of knowing what's cool in music; indeed, it may not be much of a stretch to say that he helped shape my musical tastes, so if anyone would've steered me towards a film like this, it would be him.

Seek this movie out if you can. I promise you; you'll not see another one like it all year.


  1. I shouldn't be so blunt, but it's a shame that Rodriguez' clear, powerful voice fell on deaf ears in the States while that wheezy, nasal, overrated schmuck Dylan became a living "legend".

    1. I'd go a bit further; Rodriguez's songs have a great deal in common with Dylan, Neil Young and even one or two of Springsteen's ballads. Yet these three great American songwriters...are nowhere near as good at singing. -- Susan B.


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