Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Thanks to the award-winning documentary "Searching for Sugar Man," I discovered Sixto Rodriguez, the Sugar Man many people were trying to find.

Rodriguez, a lifelong downtown Detroit resident, is an amazingly distinctive singer-songwriter who sold millions of albums overseas, yet, until the 2012 film, virtually no one in America ever heard of him.

Now I'm trying to obtain all of his recordings, and I need your help.

I have the soundtrack, with its 14 songs, but how many more are out there?

Unfortunately, in the film's March 6, 1998 Cape Town concert, immediately after "I Wonder," he sings something that is definitely not on the soundtrack. It's also not captioned on the screen, like many of the others. Can you identify it?

Besides that one, and those actually on the soundtrack, what are his other songs? And are they available?
—Luke Murphy, Stevens Point, Wis.

DEAR LUKE: First, the unidentified tune in the film that's not on the soundtrack is "Forget It." Ironically, it seems that's exactly what they did.

Completing your Rodriguez collection is easier than you might have thought, and you can do so without spending hundreds of dollars for his original Sussex LPs.

You'll need Light in the Attic's 2012 reissue of "Cold Fact" (LITA-036). That gives you these 12 tracks originally issued in 1971 on Sussex (SXBS-7000), that now sells in the $400 to $600 range:

"Crucify Your Mind"
"Forget It"
"Gommorah (A Nursery Rhyme)"
"Hate Street Dialogue"
"I Wonder"
"Inner City Blues"
"Jane S. Piddy"
"Like Janis"
"Only Good For Conversation"
"Rich Folks Hoax"
"Sugar Man"
"This Is Not A Song, It's an Outburst: Or, the Establishment Blues"

Also get Light in the Attic's 13-track repackage of "Coming from Reality" (LITA-038). With this 2009 edition you have the 10 songs issued in 1972 on the second, and less pricey ($150), Sussex LP (SXBS-7012), plus three bonus cuts:

"A Most Disgusting Song"
"Can't Get Away" (Bonus)
"Climb Up on My Music"
"Halfway Up the Stairs"
"Heikki's Suburbia Bus Tour"
"I Think of You"
"I'll Slip Away" (Bonus)
"It Started Out So Nice"
"Sandrevan Lullaby-Lifestyles"
"Silver Word"
"Street Boy" (Bonus)
"To Whom It May Concern"

You should be able to pick up the two Light in the Attic albums for $20 to $40 each, and both are audiophile 180-gram vinyl.

With those two, you'll have all 15 songs from the film, including "Forget It," along with eight others from the two Sussex collections.

The stray in the herd is "I'll Slip Away," the A-side of a 1967 single (Impact 1031) that is credited to Rod Riguez. The flip is "You'd Like to Admit It," a tune not yet found on any album.

Having the complete works of Rodriguez — just 26 songs, all written by him — is easily accomplished, and not too costly, at least for now. For this tally, more than one version of a song (e.g., studio/live) is still counted as just one.

As for collecting the body of his work, the soundtrack (Light in the Attic 289) is unnecessary. All of those tunes are also on the two LITA albums.

Referring to "Searching for Sugar Man" merely as an award-winning documentary is like calling the Grand Canyon a gully.

The movie that won the Oscar for Best Documentary (2012) in the U.S. was similarly honored with the comparable award in virtually every country where such a prize exists. It literally crushed the competition.

IZ ZAT SO? From 1967 through 1971, Sixto Rodriguez had only three singles and two LPs. Though he continued to write songs, and even record a few, as of now there are no new recordings available.

In 2008, Light in the Attic began repackaging his 1960s and '70s work in the U.S., while other labels licensed his material overseas, usually with much greater success. In some countries, the result has been gold and platinum record awards.

On those occasions when he traveled from Detroit to South Africa and Australia, he played venues with 5,000 to 20,000 seats, and each performance was completely sold-out.

The wild reaction he received from those frenzied crowds, even screaming and applauding while he just stood there waiting to sing, can only be likened to Elvis and the Beatles.

After such a tour, Rodriguez would return to his inner-city home half a world away where he could walk the streets and not be recognized. One would think "Searching for Sugar Man" would have changed that.

Oh yeah, he also gave his earnings from those tours to his family and friends.

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