How did an obscure album by an American singer-songwriter become the soundtrack to the liberal youth in apartheid-era South Africa? That is one of the questions you'll see answered in the recent documentary Searching for Sugar Man. Rodriguez emerged from the Detroit music scene in the Sixties and released his debut in 1970 and its follow-up in 1971. Both albums flopped, so Rodriguez gave up on music and turned to manual labor. Meanwhile a bootleg copy of his debut found its way to South Africa. The album became a country-wide phenomenon despite (or perhaps as a result of) being banned by the government. Back in Detroit, working in construction and renovation, Rodriguez was totally unaware that he was not just a folk hero but a household name thousands of miles away. Somehow the myth spread that he had committed suicide. Whatever became of Rodriguez? Two of his fans in South Africa were compelled to find out. Their quest is the subject of Searching for Sugar Man. The soundtrack is drawn from those two albums recorded by Rodriguez in the early Seventies.
Hear the WFUV CD of the Week Thursdays at 8 pm on 90.7 FM in New York City (radio broadcast only).
Searching for Sugar Man is now playing in select theaters.
Rodriguez performs at the Highline Ballroom on August 31.