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One of underground rock’s most unusual stories of the 1970s, the tale of an obscure debut LP by a Detroit singer-songwriter named Rodriguez becoming a source of hope and inspiration to the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, is the basis for the thought-provoking new film, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN. The original motion picture soundtrack album will be available starting July 24th through Legacy Recordings, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT. The vinyl version of the soundtrack will be released by Light In The Attic Records.
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, a Red Box Films & Passion Pictures Production in association with Canfield Pictures & The Documentary Company, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, premiered in New York on April 24th at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film opens in New York and Los Angeles on July 27th and will open in other markets throughout the month of August. For a complete release schedule, visit the film’s website at www.SearchingForSugarManMovie.com.
Directed by Malik Bendjelloul, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN tells a story that begins with the 1970 release of Rodriguez’s debut album, Cold Fact. In its Reissues Of The Year tally for 2008, Rolling Stone magazine called the album “A remarkable artifact of Michigan hippie soul by singer-songwriter Sixto Diaz Rodriguez.” The soundtrack album on Legacy will compile tracks from Cold Fact and its follow-up LP of 1971, Coming From Reality, reissued to critical acclaim in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
Celebrated Motor City producers Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore discovered Rodriguez in the late 1960s in a local bar and were struck by his Dylanesque songwriting. A charismatic and mysterious artist behind his shades, Rodriguez had built a strong local following, a true folk hero in the purest sense. Cold Fact was a fusion of gritty funk with “street-tough lyricism and psychedelic folk arrangements,” in the words of Doug Freeman of the Austin Chronicle. The album’s politically-charged “topical lyrics and druggy avant-garde arrangements” (Time Out New York), “folk-soul weirdness” (Filter), and “lysergic gutter poetry” (Spin) were unique even in the ’70s.
Nevertheless, the album did not succeed commercially, and despite the release of a second LP, Rodriguez drifted into obscurity. Rumors of his fate were widely and wildly exaggerated, ranging from reports of escalating depression to a sensationally gruesome suicide onstage, involving self-immolation.
Meanwhile, the LP had made its way around the world to South Africa, where it was banned by a repressive government. Copies were bootlegged and circulated, and Rodriguez inadvertently became the soundtrack of an emerging liberal African youth, whose resistance movement adopted Cold Fact as its rallying cry. Over the next two decades, Rodriguez became a household name in the country, where the number of copies of Cold Fact would have earned it platinum sales status.
Both sides of the story, Rodriguez’s life in Detroit and the subsequent impact of his music in the smoldering Apartheid era, pre-Nelson Mandela, proved fascinating to Stockholm-based documentary filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul. His subjects have included Kraftwerk, Björk, Sting, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Madonna, Mariah Carey, U2, Kylie Minogue, Prince, and others. His short documentary films for Swedish Television’s international cultural weekly show Kobra, became the basis for such films as Men Who Stare At Goats (George Clooney) and The Terminal (Tom Hanks). The evolution of the financing, production, and filming of SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN is as fascinating and complex as the life of Rodriguez himself.
“I describe myself as ‘musico-politico’,” Rodriguez said recently. “I was born and bred in Detroit, four blocks from the city center. Back then, I was influenced by the urban sounds that were going on around me all the time. Music is art and art is a cultural force. As far as my work from Detroit comparing to the South African Apartheid, the similarities echo. The placards of the 1970s in the United States read things like: We Want Jobs and Stop the War – I was looking at the music from a working class perspective that was relevant, as it turns out, to the kids in South Africa.”
Searching for Sugar Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – Tracklisting
1. SUGAR MAN 2. CRUCIFY YOUR MIND 3. CAUSE 4. I WONDER 5. LIKE JANIS 6. THIS IS NOT A SONG, IT’S AN OUTBURST: OR, THE ESTABLISHMENT BLUES 7. CAN’T GET AWAY 8. I THINK OF YOU 9. INNER CITY BLUES 10. SANDREVAN LULLABY - LIFESTYLES 11. STREET BOY 12. A MOST DISGUSTING SONG 13. I’LL SLIP AWAY 14. JANE S. PIDDY