The story of Rodriguez may not be a famous one (yet!), but it’s so big that it takes not one, but two, of our favorite labels to bring it to life! Legacy Recordings and Light in the Attic have teamed up to release the soundtrack to Malik Bendjelloul’s film Searching for Sugar Man about a “lost” singer-songwriter who made a big, and unusual, impact. The adjective “remarkable” may be overused, but it certainly applies to the life and career of Rodriguez.
The film, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, following a NY premiere engagement earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival. It follows the artist born Sixto Diaz Rodriguez in 1942. The documentary was also hailed at both Sundance and SXSW, and was described by Q as “stunning. One of the greatest, and most moving documentaries ever made.”
Discovered in Detroit in the late 1960s by Dennis Coffey (the Funk Brothers guitarist and “Scorpio” artist) and his frequent partner Mike Theodore, Rodriguez made his record debut with 1970’s Cold Fact. Issued on Sussex in the U.S. and A&M in the U.K., Cold Fact featured Coffey and Theodore as producers and arrangers, as well as famed Motown bassist Bob Babbitt. It captured Rodriguez’ melding of folk with funk, along with a heaping helping of psychedelia. Rodriguez followed Cold Fact up with 1971’s Coming from Reality, recorded in London by producer Steve Rowland with Chris Spedding on drums, on the same labels. Despite a more pop-oriented sensibility, it too sunk without a trace.
Or so Rodriguez thought. In a so-unbelievable-it-must-be-true story, Cold Fact was released in South Africa, at that time torn apart by the apartheid government. It became a much-bootlegged, much-circulated LP. Something in Rodriguez’ topical, passionate lyrics (“lysergic gutter poetry,” per Spin) spoke to the oppressed citizens, and Rodriguez became a familiar and inspiring figure among African youth and particularly those entrenched in military conflicts. Sales of Cold Fact in the country would have earned it platinum status. (In 1998, it was finally awarded a platinum disc in South Africa, and it found similar success in Australia. There, it went to No. 23 on the album charts in 1976, and eventually reached 5x platinum status.) The cold fact, though, is that Rodriguez had no idea of the album’s South African success or its power to inspire there. Just a decade ago, he was found, toiling as a day laborer working on a Detroit building site. The one-time singer/songwriter was completely unaware that his long-ago album had provided the soundtrack to a revolution far, far away.
Hit the jump for more, including order links and track listing with discography!
Searching for Sugar Man presents this fantastic tale, shedding light on the musician’s status as an unknown in his native United States, as well as the impact of his music in South Africa. The soundtrack offers fourteen tracks of folk-rock, funk and soul, drawn from Cold Fact, Coming from Reality and sessions circa 1972/1973 that went unreleased at the time. Light in the Attic has already reissued Cold Fact and Coming from Reality on CD; the latter was expanded with three bonus tracks produced by Coffey and Theodore. All three of those rare songs are reprised on the Sugar Man soundtrack. It’s an enjoyable and fascinating listen independent of the film, and is a perfect introduction to the enigmatic Rodriguez’ small but utterly influential oeuvre.
The soundtrack is available today on CD and as a digital download from Legacy Recordings, and will be released as a 2-LP vinyl edition from Light in the Attic on September 24. The limited-edition first vinyl pressing features a deluxe “Tip-on” jacket with spot U.V. gloss, 180-gram white vinyl, and an 18×24′’ fold-out original U.K. film poster, plus a download card for the entire album. You can order below!
- Sugar Man
- Crucify Your Mind
- I Wonder
- Like Janis
- This is Not a Song, It’s an Outburst, or: The Establishment Blues
- Can’t Get Away
- I Think of You
- Inner City Blues
- Sandrevan Lullaby – Lifestyles
- Street Boy
- A Most Disgusting Song
- I’ll Slip Away
- Jane S. Piddy
Tracks 1-2, 4-6, 9 & 14 from Cold Fact, Sussex LP SXBS 7000, 1970
Tracks 3, 8, 10 & 12 from Coming from Reality, Sussex LP SXBS 7012, 1971
Tracks 7, 11 & 13 recorded 1972/1973, released on Coming from Reality, Light in the Attic CD LITA 038, 2009