Discovering an Icon…

Yesterday my daughter and I opted to go to a movie in the afternoon.  Nothing unusal about this.  I had pulled up the listings to see what was playing around town earlier in the week and sent her three titles that piqued my interest.  One of the movies I saw listed was ‘Searching for Sugarman’.    That is the movie we decided upon.

I left the theatre having been so profoundly moved by this man’s music and his story.  This documentary quickly went to top of my all time favourites, it is that good.  The story is based upon the musical talent is Rodriguez, the superstar who never was.

In the early 1970’s he cut a couple of albumns that flatlined in the US.  He worked with producer Scott Rowland who has produced some of the biggest names in music.  And ask Mr. Rowland who he remembers, it is this man.  With his musical career not moving forward as he hoped, he put down his guitar and went to work in the construction industry.  From the accounts of his daughters, all of whom he is close to, their father worked hard and never complained.  They lived in abject poverty but their father took them to museums and libraries and saw to it that they were exposed to higher learning and worldly cultures despite their economic challenges.

Rodriguez was, however, a superstar in South Africa.  A copy of the handful of albumns that were sold in the States made it’s way to Cape Town where it was bootlegged and sold millions of copies.  Rodriguez would never see a dime from the sales.  It was a couple of his fans in South Africa that began the quest to find out what happened to their musical idol.

It was rumoured that he had committed suicide on stage.

This movie also gives you a peak into a nation that was oppressed and held back during the Apartheid years.  And music would be the manner by which they voiced their objections and began to come together to stand against this abomination.  They were delighted to dicover he wasn’t dead, but really knew very little about where he was from, in fact, they knew nothing at all.  A website was put together asking for information about this man and lo and behold, one of Rodriguez’s daughters came upon it.

Suffice to say that in 1998 Rodriguez, along with his daughters went to South Africa to perfom a concert.  He stepped into a totally different world.

I cried quite bit during this movie.  First the lyrics of the songs spoke to me in way very few artist’s have ever done.  But just to watch this story unfold and to meet this man who is still so incredibly humble, and surprised at times at the response to his music.  Five years ago Malik Bendjelloul came upon the story and made it into a documentary that was presented at Sundance Film Festival this year and won.  Even the story of the making of the film in extraordinary.

So please, if you have the opportunity, do take in this film. It is absolutely remarkable.

There was a part of me last night that felt almost cheated that we were not exposed to this man’s music back in the day.  I do know a bit about the music industry and it’s not particulary a kind business.  It is about the money in many cases and what is marketable and who is marketable.

My sister was in music for many years and worked for Capitol Records.  I saw many bands over the years who played fantastic music who would never make it into a studio.  I saw the men in suits who decided if someone had the ‘it’ factor.  We are still sold a product these days that is largley manufactured and homognized, at least in the realm of popular music that is the case.

The songs that get airplay, well at times I find it tedious, as that’s all I hear.  So I am constantly switching the dial, looking for something, anything that might appeal.

I have spent the better part of the morning on YouTube listening to Rodriguez’s music.  I am now a fan.  Thank god for the internet! We have found him now.  I hope he does get back into the studio as well.

I discovered a musical icon this weekend and yes, I admit that I have been gushing just a wee bit.  I do that when I really like something.  And I love this man’s music.  Life is often stranger than fiction, and it is certainly the case here.

It would be great if music could be put out to the masses and let us decide what we like and what we don’t, however, much of what makes in onto the airwaves has been censored to some degree.  Take Alannis Morisette’s song  ‘You Outta Know’ off the Jagged Little Pill record that catapulted her to fame.  There is a line in the song “Do you think about me when you fuck her?”

That line was never played on the air.  In fact, at the Grammy’s that year the debate was whether the TV networks would play it or censor it.  Some allowed all the content.  I was happy that the network I was watching opted to allow the full content.

This is just small example how music can be ‘adjusted’ for the masses.  God forbid that we should hear profanity in a song.

I am going to head off and perfom my domestic duties now.  I will track down and purchase these CD’s and will purchase the DVD when it comes out as well.  Yes, I waxed poetic about this man’s music….but do give him a listen.  His music is as relevent now as it was then.



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