Monday, June 24, 2013

Have You Seen This Man?

Sixto Rodriguez.. A Detroit born man that made two records in the late 60's and early 70's. He was compared to Bob Dylan in his writing of music and the way he sounded. But unfortunately for him, his records flopped and nothing ever came of him in the United States. He had been in contact with people to help him make his records,and they recall him meeting up with them on street corners or random park benches. They assumed he was homeless, another drifter. He made the records, they flopped and most people that knew him or of him, said he disappeared. There were stories told of him committing suicide on stage after a particularly bad show. These tales were never the same.. One story claimed he doused himself in gas and lit himself on fire. Another stated he shot himself right at the end of his last song. It remained a mystery .. for awhile.
 Meanwhile, in Cape Town, South Africa a man by the name of Stephen "Sugar" Segermen had his own questions. He had heard of Sixto Rodriguez, in fact all of South Africa had. Apparently Rodriguez was a musical legend there. One day a woman asked if she could find a record of Rodriguez and Segermen simply pointed her in the direction of the closest record store. She was shocked that there would be copies because she had been in the U.S. and no one had ever heard of him, never mind getting a copy of the record. It's like he didn't exist. That, got Segermen's attention. He had noticed that there was little to no information on this American legend like there was on the Rolling Stones or The Beatles. Another man, Craig Bartholomew Strydom took interest in finding more information on Rodriguez. He was a writer and decided it would be an interesting story to tell once he did his research. He was most intrigued when he finally contacted someone from Rodriguez's record label and the next day, the phone number was disconnected. Where, if Rodriguez was in fact dead- was all the money for his records being sold in South Africa going?  Segermen created a website that was directed at finding any information on Rodriguez or his death in the late 90's. Soon after, Rodriguez's eldest daughter came across the website and came into contact with Segermen. Rodriguez had a family and was in fact alive!
 Segermen recalls waking at one in the morning to the voice of Rodriguez calling from the United States. He, being a huge fan was completely dumbfounded. The fact that this mystery man was alive was one thing but that he didn't know he was famous was another!
 Rodriguez is informed of his unknown fame and to him, nothing changes. He continues working where he works and living in the house he owned for forty years. He is convinced to go to Cape Town and perform a series of concerts to long awaiting disbelieving fans. He is greeted with limos at the airport and nearly walks past them thinking they are for someone else. He is treated like a king and continues to act like a labourer in Detroit, never letting his new found fame get to him. His daughters are in awe of their father because of his cool, laid back demeanor. He performed for thousands of people and played with such ease and grace, like he had been doing it for years.. One daughter describes that her father now has two lives. One in Detroit where he is like a nobody. The other in South Africa where he is what he always dreamed of being..

 I learned all of this from the documentary, "Searching For Sugarman" that I watched tonight. Rob introduced the idea of watching a documentary and I instantly sighed and mentally signed out for the night. I'm not sure why, but my attitude towards documentaries is always fairly negative, especially when it's one that Rob wants to watch. But I am almost always interested within the first few minutes. Such was the case with this one. I couldn't believe the mystery behind this .. intriguing voice and his haunting lyrics. The documentary played many of his songs and with every song I wondered.. why wasn't he famous? Was it because there already was a similar song writer; Bob Dylan? I found that Rodriguez's songs were chilling and touching like Dylan's but that his voice could be compared to Don Mclean's or James Taylor's.
 I couldn't believe that this man's dreams came true in another part of the world and yet he had no idea. I would have been so sad to find out that he was dead and that he would never know how big he had been. But it was exciting to learn that he was in fact alive and that he did get to live that dream years and years after his disappointments. When he goes to South Africa to perform for the first time, I can almost feel the anticipation of the crowd waiting to see if it's really him... The bass player is strumming the same beat over and over.. as Rodriguez is being introduced for the very first time.. The crowd goes nuts for a good five full minutes before he can actually begin to play. The moment his voice is heard throughout the crowd everyone starts cheering, LOUD. It must have been such an incredible experience for Rodriguez and his family to live that moment. This story was so touching, I had to write about it. There was never any proof of where Rodriguez's money went when he sold all those records back in the 60's and 70's. But the money he made from all of the concerts he did after he was rediscovered went to his family and friends. He continues to live in his old house and he does what he did before he was discovered. Although I did some research and found out he was just in London last week playing a concert. The documentary is out now, so he must be getting a lot more publicity because of it. I know that I would like to have a few of his songs on my ipod to listen to. He is a very talented man. I'm so glad his talent wasn't wasted on deaf ears all of those years ago. Someone somewhere heard something in that voice. I guess it could be a lesson to be learned.. Never give up on a dream because.. someone.. somewhere .. could hear/see something in you.

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