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“The music industry is a fast-paced business, but it is not all about the money,” he explains.

“That’s not the reason you do things, there is more beyond that, another kind of reward – self-expression. Anyway, you can’t take money with you when you go.”

When piecing the doco together, Malik went back and spoke to many involved in the recording of the albums in the Seventies, notably Coming From Reality producer Steve Rowland and Cold Fact‘s Dennis Coffey.

“They had been waiting for this phone call for years,” Malik enthuses of the producers who’d worked with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Marvin Gaye, but counted their work with the “prophet” Rodriguez as their most valued.

“They wanted to talk about being part of something pretty amazing in the Seventies, and they didn’t know the story [of Rodriguez’s South African success], either.”

Rodriguez himself was sceptical, and was only convinced to provide Malik with a new interview for the film – conducted at his home – when the Swedish-based filmmaker made the sojourn to Detroit.

“It’s a place you want to see in July when it is hot, or in February when it is very cold,” Rodriguez recalls of Malik’s courting of him.

“He came in February and filmed these shots of me walking through the city and that was when I thought: ‘Are you going to make this work or not?’ So then I agreed.”


TNT's Alasdair Morton meets Sugar Man

Sugar Man heralds the start of a new chapter in Rodriguez’s life and career. “As a result of technology I’m almost a new act,” he relishes of the opportunity for him to connect with a new audience.

“Although the material is old-century, I do consider myself contemporary and there is a new lease of life for the material, as well. The young blood should invest in the recordings.”

Further success beckons and Sixto could very well be on the cusp of that mainstream acclaim many foresaw at the end of the Sixties.

An appearance on The David Letterman Show is booked for late August, with global film fest appearances, and accompanying gigs, as well.

The duo have been to the Czech Republic and Moscow recently, with Malik picking up the Special Jury Prize and Audience Award for Best International Doc at Sundance, too, meaning it’s not just the tall, dark musician whose life has changed.

There are new shows on the horizon as well, including a return to Australia next year and new dates in South Africa after the documentary tour is done and dusted.

If you were to stop someone on the street in his native Detroit in a few months time, perhaps, it is highly likely you’d find half the people you spoke with would know of Rodriguez and his incorruptible ways, too. And it’s not before time.

 

Searching For Sugar Man is out now through StudioCanal.

Photos: StudioCanal

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Interview with the remarkable Sugar Man: American folk singer and subject of new film
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