I just watched one of the most fascinating documentaries ever, called Searching for the Sugarman. It's about this talented, Detroit-born, Mexican singer-songwriter, Sixto Rodriguez (sisto because he was the sixth child). Two record company agents get wind of Sixto's genius and go to see him play in a dinghy bar by the wharf-side, and find him playing with his back to the audience. Impressed (they say there was only one other guy who was as good, and that was Bob Dylan), they sign him up and he cuts two albums, expecting it to hit the charts. But they don't, and they sell about six copies. Six copies. That's it. And he slips into obscurity, leaving trails of rumours of his suicide. Some believe he was at a concert and people started booing, so he pulled out a gun and shot himself. Others say he doused himself in petrol and set himself alight. Nobody knows.
Until two serious fans in the apartheid-veiled South Africa decide to track him down. That's the other fascinating, incredible side of the story. Someone's girlfriend from America comes to South Africa isolated by the rest of the world (so much so that they don't know what's happening outside of their country), with the first record of Rodriguez. Soon it becomes famous, as the lyrics, especially from 'I wonder' resonate with the segregated S.A. The songs become symbolic of a rebellious attitude and a cry for freedom. But the record is not available anywhere so they start copying it and passing it around. Soon Sixto Rodriguez is a legend in a country far away from the poverty-stricken Detroit.
The fans go through every line of every song, look everywhere possible and search for the slightest clue. Finally they find it in a song where Sixto says he met a girl in Dearborne.
After tracking down his daughters, and former agents, they finally find him in Detroit. He is alive! The guys can't believe their eyes. He lives in a derelict building he bought for $50 from the government at an auction. He works in the construction industry, demolishing and building stuff.
The fans, overjoyed at finding their idol, take him and his family to South Africa where thousands of passionate fans show up for his first concert. And he does many more, both in S.A and in Australia. And then America recognised him, he was on Letterman sometime back.
It's an incredibly moving story. The story of a singer-songwriter considered as talented as Dylan if not more, plunged into nothingness in the country of his birth, discovered ironically in South Africa, thanks to apartheid and bootlegging, finds what's rightfully his. A place on the stage and in the limelight.
It's a tale of bizarre coincidences, unbelievable turns of luck, and hope. Please watch it. Now.