I had no idea who Sixto Rodriguez was before I popped this documentary into my player. He was a Detroit musician who released a couple of albums in the early ’70s and then disappeared. Some said he committed suicide onstage by setting himself on fire, or by shooting himself in the head.
(Spoiler alert: Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know the big secrets in Searching for Sugar Man.)
As it turns out, Rodriguez didn’t kill himself. He just left the music biz and led a normal, secluded life. I’ve listened to his albums, and he is very good.
The other big surprise: Rodriguez was, and is still, a major sensation in South Africa—and he had no idea he had achieved fame elsewhere in the world. After his albums bombed stateside, he went back to being a construction worker. The makers of the movie seek him out, and find him in Detroit. He eventually makes a pilgrimage to South Africa, where he is bigger than Elvis.
He’s actually touring right now, and is headed our way for Coachella.
It’s an amazing story, told in a very good film. Interviews with Rodriguez, his family and his supporters reveal that this is a nice, talented guy who deserved a musical career. And he’s got one now, thanks in part to this film.
Special Features: A director’s commentary that also features Rodriguez is a must-listen. You also get a decent making-of, and a questions and answers session at the Tribeca Film Festival.