This evening the biography and story about the making of the Oscar-winning documentary ‘Sugar Man’ was launched as ‘Sugar Man, the Life, Death and Resurrection of Sixto Rodriguez‘ at a jam-packed La Parada Bree Street. The book covers the 72 years of Rodriguez’s life, his past and also a possible future!
The book was written by the two writers to tell the tale of finding the ‘lost’ Rodriguez, as told in the ‘Sugar Man’ documentary of 2012, being Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman, who owns Mabu Vinyls in the City Bowl, and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, a music journalist who haswritten for Rolling Stone, and spends 80% of his writing on Rodriguez, he told the audience.
It was unbelievable to see so many persons attending the book launch at La Parada, which had been publicized via a Facebook Event post, more than a hundred persons filling the restaurant on Bree Street. Lovely canapés of ham and cheese croquettes, crumbed calamari, ciabatta and prosciutto, and pâté and ciabatta were brought to the tables regularly. Wines were sponsored by Porcupine Ridge.
Journalist Marianne Salticrax Thamm was the moderator, asking weakly phrased questions of the two writers, at times appearing to know the book better than the writers, and answering questions she posed herself. She was put in her place by Segerman when she started rambling on about a PJ Powers song, having written the biography of the singer recently. There was no energy in the discussion, and little new information was revealed if one had seen the documentary about Rodriguez two years ago.
The sad part of the book, and new information making up about a quarter of the book, is the suicide of ‘Sugar Man‘ documentary director Malik Bendjelloul. The book is dedicated to the late director, who appeared to have achieved the ultimate in winning an Oscar, but was driven to his own self-destruction. Malik made a beautiful film, and struggled to raise the funding for it. In writing the book and seeking information about Malik, all the writers had was the history of emails between them.
Strydom said that the writing of the book was a ‘creative osmosis‘ for him, and a happy collaboration between him and Segerman. It made him move back to Cape Town eventually (from overseas and via Johannesburg) to a street close to that of Segerman’s house in Oranjezicht, the start of a new friendship. He describes the content of the book as covering 72 years, and therefore becomes Rodriguez’s biography, whereas the documentary only covered the two years of both Strydom and Segerman looking for and ultimately finding Rodriquez, working as a building construction worker in the USA!
It was clear that Rodriguez would not have been rediscovered had it not been for Strydom and Segerman. Random House Struik MD Steve Connolly praised the book for being ‘well crafted‘, and ‘moving‘. The writers spoke to the philosophical question as to whether it was a good thing that Rodriguez had been found, and whether he would have been better off without the newfound fame. Both writers feel that Rodriguez is happy with how it has turned out. Funny was the writers saying that Rodriguez did not know that he was lost! Despite a failing eyesight, Rodriguez gets onto the stage with one of his daughters, plays his music, and meets his fans. Rodriguez is a complex person, others saying about him that the closer one gets to him, the less one knows about him, being attracted to new friends. No new music has been composed by Rodriguez since his rediscovery.
The writers were harsh in stating that Rodriguez was dishonest in one respect, in having said that the lyrics of his music had meant nothing to him. However, the lyrics were cryptic notes written forty years ago, and referred to events, persons, and places, and they were the clues to Segerman and Strydom in finding Rodriguez.
Currently a court case in the USA is deciding about the ownership of Rodriguez’s music, which was alluded to in the documentary. It created a challenge for Malik in the documentary, in using Rodriguez’s music, which he did finally obtain. Hal Leonard, well-known producer of musicals such as ‘Fiddler on the Roof’‘, is keen to create a musical about the Rodriquez story, but can only do so once the music ownership court case has been completed.
The background to the ‘Sugar Man‘ documentary is summarized in our blogpost we wrote three years ago when the documentary was released in our country. If it had not been for the chance meeting on Camps Bay beach between Segerman and Malik, and Segerman relating the Rodriguez story, the documentary and the book would never have happened. The book has four ‘narratives’ : the mystery about Rodriguez, the biography of Rodriguez, his music, and the documentary, including a profile of Malik.
The closing comment (rather than question) was a salute to the ‘Sugar Man’ journey by the two writers, in their tenacity of research, in enticing the British speaker to move to Cape Town after seeing the documentary, and in making the world a better place in telling the Rodriguez story. It was sad to hear that Rodriguez has not yet read the book (perhaps because of his eyesight problem). Rodriguez asked that the book not refer to his two ex-wives, but the two writers overrode this request. The book is available on Amazon, and they hope to formally launch the book in the USA. It emerged that Rodriguez did not attend the Oscars in 2013!
One wonders why it took two years for the book to be written when all the research for the documentary was done two years prior. Odd too is the reference to the ‘Death‘ of Rodriguez in the book title. Both these questions were not asked at the launch.
‘Sugar Man, the Live, Death and Resurrection of Sixto Rodriguez‘, Random House Struik. www.randomstruik.co.za