Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rodriguez - Sugar Man

Rodriguez has been a household name among the white population of South Africa since the early 70s. Cold Fact has become a cult classic in South Africa, but unbelievably Rodriguez was unknown elsewhere except for other Commonwealth nations and I personally don't know anyone who doesn't know the lyrics to every track on Cold Fact and that includes my grandparents. David Holmes and his band The Free Association covered Sugar Man after Holmes, famous for scoring a wealth of Hollywood films including the Ocean's 11 films, had included the track on a mix CD a few years ago that I forget the name of but I'm sure that Ashley Kanter will remind me of. His influence on South Africans and particularly those in the national service during the turbulent 70s and 80s was immense as this quote on the Sugarman forum exemplifies.

Sixto Rodriguez - fifty-something-year-old failed Detroit politician and (in his own country) unknown singer songwriter - is part of our shared cultural heritage. In the deadly SA '70s, his songs of harsh political complaint, of the power of sex and the lure of drugs, awoke something in untold thousands of young (white) breasts. He stoked rebellion and - who knows - helped children of suburbia wake up to the need for change in their own country.
- Guy Willoughby, 9th March 1998

I remember my wife telling me that her friend, Matt Smith - producer for the likes of Slumber Party, the Volebeats, early White Stripes, the Dirtbombs and many more, was surprised to hear how big he was in South Africa as he sat in on sessions with Rodriguez in dive bars in Detroit and would never have in a million years have thought that he was known outside Cass Corridor let alone all the way at the southern tip of Africa. He toured South Africa in 1998 due to the efforts of a few dedicated fans and by all accounts he was overwhelmed to be performing in front of thousands in arenas, which is quite a step up from playing at a dive bar in front of a barman and a few stragglers. I went to the concert at the Bellville Vellodrome and it was immense even if he did forget the words to a few songs but that didn't matter as every word was sung by the mesmerized throngs at an almost ear-splitting level. It was easily one of the best live experiences of my life.

There is a timeless, almost ethereal quality to his right on tunes and if I were forced to pick a desert island record Cold Fact would most certainly be in the running. I love this record and I never grow tired of it. Enjoy.

Rodriguez - Sugar Man

1 comment:

Dane said...

I couldn't agree more... I am from Jo'Burg and this has always been a CD that was within arms reach.
Funny, I just moved from Detroit to Miami and did not know he was from there till right now.... you learn something new....

Cold Fact rocks!