The TV show “60 Minutes” is on Sunday nights, usually just after a football game. It is the spontaneous rave of TV because you never really know when it is going to be on.
Last night we were channel surfing and came upon “60 Minutes.” The story we caught was “Rodriguez the Sugar Man.” Rodriguez is Sixto Rodriguez and is a Detroit, Michigan folksinger that was born in 1942.
Rodriguez recorded a couple of albums back in the late sixties that were commercial flops. The music was cheered by critics but the albums did not sell. So Rodriguez spends the next 40 years working as a day laborer. He manages to get a degree in philosophy and have a family but he never rises above poverty.
Meanwhile in South Africa, Rodriguez and his music are more popular than the Beatles. People in South Africa believe a rumor that Rodriguez has been dead for years. They believe he committed suicide by setting himself on fire while on stage during a concert. He is a folk hero. Everyone knows and loves his music. His albums are selling like crazy in South Africa but Rodriguez is clueless to his popularity and hasn’t receive a penny for the record sales.
Twenty five years go by and some of Rodriguez’s fans learn he is still alive and invite him to South Africa to perform. When he arrives he believes someone important must be at the airport because there is a limousine. He is shocked to learn the limo is for him. He is even more shocked when thousands rather than dozens show up for his performance. He didn’t realize they considered his appearance not just a surprise but a miracle. He was the sound track of their lives. He is Lazarus.
Meanwhile in Sweden there is a young filmmaker looking for a story to make his first film. His name is Malik Bendjelloul. He hears about Rodriguez and without any resources he begins making a movie using only his cell phone as a camera.
Could this story get any more bizarre. Yes! The Sundance Film Festival chooses the film for an award and now the film is being considered for an Academy Award. (Even though the film is currently being shown it is only 90% complete according to Malik.)
Meanwhile back in Detroit Rodriguez is still as humble as ever claiming poverty doesn’t equal a lack of dignity. What a story!
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Manzie R Lawfer