Life has a way of reminding you of where you come from. What it was that mattered to you. What it was that made your chest swell with its discovery. Life reminded me yesterday of a time when the songs of a singer/songwriter not only reached me – they cried out who I was.
It came – as it often does in a round about way. An early birthday present. A movie with a friend. Searching for that movie led me to another, and my heart is again full of the words of a poet, while my body sings to his melodies.
Not that I ever forgot him…his albums are still kept safe. But I have never gotten around to getting the CDs. I looked. But getting a copy was like finding the tooth fairy. I thought he was dead. There were rumours of suicide, and he had disappeared after only two albums.
Sometimes I played him through the computer – on youtube – and remembered a night when he sat alone on stage in Sydney and sang back to me the words that existed in my heart. And if I had believed in Heaven I might have thought I found it that night. Words that slid over me like sun melted butter, moulding to my curves, slipping in to the crevices of my body and mind. The poet and singer able to articulate what my 21-year-old mind had trouble expressing.
Many of my friends were Bob Dylan fans. I never understood that. While his words resonated, the voice never bled truthfully for me. Not like Rodriguez. His pain spread like molasses from those vinyl discs and anchored me with their sweet solid honesty.
I recently wrote about a boy that I knew would never love me…a bad choice. These words were my signature song I thought at the time.
Crucify Your Mind.
Was it a huntsman or a player
That made you pay the cost
That now assumes relaxed positions
And prostitutes your loss?
Were you tortured by your own thirst
In those pleasures that you seek
That made you Tom the curious
That makes you James the weak?
And you claim you got something going
Something you call unique
But I’ve seen your self-pity showing
And the tears rolled down your cheeks.
Soon you know I’ll leave you
And I’ll never look behind
‘Cos I was born for the purpose
That crucifies your mind.
So con, convince your mirror
As you’ve always done before
Giving substance to shadows
Giving substance ever more.
And you assume you got something to offer
Secrets shiny and new
But how much of you is repetition
That you didn’t whisper to him too.
The words hold their truth today as much as they did in the seventies.
The marvel at such succinctness has not diminished.
Some singer songwriters occasionally hit a key with one of their songs. Sixto Rodriguez did it with every masterpiece he penned. I never understood how he was not the revered genius to others, I knew him to be.
Today Rodriguez has become something of a cult figure. I knew he was popular in Australia in the seventies and early eighties. It seems he was just as popular here in New Zealand. But where he became a legend was South Africa. His records were banned by the government at the time because their lyrics found the hearts of anti-apartheid supporters who understood his messages and bathed themselves in his anti establishment statements.
I was not the only one who believed Rodriguez dead. And in what has become a story fantastical enough to be fiction, another who believed him dead went looking – for how he died.
That quest has become a documentary that is taking the world and reforming it.
Searching for Sugar Man is the story of that quest. What it has unraveled is a remarkable tale of a remarkable man. In the process it has introduced a new generation to the genius that is Sixto Rodriguez.
Searching for Sugar Man won awards at the Sundance Film Festival. I have yet to see it. It is showing in Auckland…but not often…and Auckland is two hours away. But when I do I will be sure to tell you all about it.
The search has done much more than spawned an award-winning documentary. It has brought Sixto Rodriguez back to performing for those that loved him before and those that are learning to love him now.
UPDATE: This post has been reblogged on to Rodriguez’s Official Website Blog. How cool is that. I am one very thrilled Rodriguez fan !!!!!!
- Searching For Sugar Man Review (thepeoplesmovies.com)
- Searching For Sugarman (fleamarketfunk.com)
- Sixto Rodriguez: On the trail of the Dylan of Detroit (telegraph.co.uk)