EARLY WORD: The Sugar Man’s Second Coming


Here’s a fairy tale for you. A mysterious, Dylanesque poet from the mean streets of Detroit makes a brilliant album of lush, faintly trippy folk-rock called Cold Fact. Like too many great pieces of art, the album fails to find its audience. The artist gives up on his musical dreams and settles into a twilight exile of obscurity and back-breaking manual labor. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the artist, his music has sparked a fire and fueled massive social change across the globe in South Africa. His music is banned by the government, but everyone still seems to have a copy of it, trading it samizdat-style on 427th generation cassette tape dubs. It becomes part of the universal language of freedom there and the soundtrack to the toppling of apartheid. The people there dream of seeing the singer perform one day only to be devastated by the apocryphal word-of-mouth news that the artist long ago committed suicide on stage — some say he shot himself in the head, others say he doused himself in gasoline and lit a match. Still, he will always live on in the music. Fast forward 20 years. A musical detective in Capetown puts together the puzzle pieces and figures out that the singer is in fact alive and well and living in the inner-city ruins of Detroit. Huge concerts are planned in South Africa. The singer arrives and is hailed as a conquering hero and plays to large adoring crowds. A documentary is made and his music gets rediscovred in America, including an appearance on 60 Minutes and a sold out U.S. tour. Only this isn’t a fairy tale, it’s a true story. The mysterious artist’s name is Rodriguez, and the name of the documentary is Searching For Sugar Man. In the wake of a sold out show at World Cafe Live in the fall, Rodriguez will return to the area for a concert at The Keswick Theater on April 9th (tickets go on sale Friday @ noon), because some times even true stories have fairy tale endings. — PETE TROSHAK