How the hell have I never heard of this guy?

Posted on Posted in Film, Music

searching_for_sugar_man_filmstill1_rodriguez_byhalwilsonI’m titling this post, knowing full well that somewhere, one of my much hipper and more musically aware friends will read it while sipping espresso (is that still what hip people drink?) in some dimly lit coffee house and think, “Oh yeah, Rodriguez. I had both of his records in junior high.” (I’m looking at you, Kohnhorst.)

Our search for an Oscar-winning movie last night landed us on the Best Documentary winner: Searching for Sugar Man. Holy crap. What an incredible story. Watch the trailer:

So the guy goes viral before that’s even a thing – only he doesn’t have a website where he can track his number of hits … or a Facebook page where he can watch his fan count tick up and up … or even an email address so someone around the world can tell him, “Hey, man. Love your music.” That sense of isolation is what hit me hardest about this movie.

But the other thing this movie made me wonder is how did this guy not find any success here at home? Whether you like his music today or not (and I do), there’s no denying that it captures that 1971 zeitgeist. Or at least it seems to, looking back on it from right now. Listen to a little bit of it. The Dylan comparisons are easy. I hear a lot of Don McLean in there. Maybe a little Warren Zevon? Some Arlo Guthrie? Maybe not quite so much. But my point is, those guys all found great success and this guy couldn’t get a sniff?

Rodriguez got two albums recorded. And it’s not like they were slapped together in some Detroit garage. They’re nicely produced and arranged, with horns and strings backing him and the whole bit. So a record company thought enough of him to invest that much. I always thought that, back then, once the record company was on board to that extent, then they’d pick a single and your A&R man would go out and start bribing DJs and you’d be on the radio. And once you were on the radio, you were all set. People’d buy your records – because the radio was the only place we had to learn about new music. Clearly my limited understanding of the music industry is missing some key components.

So, to me, the story of his failure at home is almost as intriguing as the story of his success abroad.

At any rate, the movie’s definitely worth watching.

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