Review – Searching for Sugar Man (Film, 2012)

What if Bob Dylan had never sold a record? Imagine that.

Imagine that none of us have ever listened to one of America’s greatest singer-songwriters. What if one our most icononic musicians had cut two albums – just two – but we’ve never heard the songs, we’ve never heard ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ or ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ or ‘Watchtower’ or ‘Tangled Up in Blue’? Try to picture an America where no one in 60s counter-culture had ever heard ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’, because maybe Dylan had to hang it up early because his albums just didn’t sell, so he had to be realistic and work a construction job to provide for his family. And maybe way back in the day you actually worked with Dylan – think of that – but instead of being an icon, he was just “Bob” to you, one of the guys, and that was a long time ago. He used to play music, you recall, he mentioned that, but you actually never heard Bob play, come to think about it. Then one day you discover that those two albums he cut all those decades back are super sensations overseas and that they’ve have helped to inspire a resistance to totalitarian rule in a land far away….See the rest of my review at Cinema Faith.

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

4 thoughts on “Review – Searching for Sugar Man (Film, 2012)”

  1. I tried to put up this comment on your Cinema Faith post but I couldn’t get it past the automated screeners. Here it is:

    We watched this movie awhile back and we too were moved. I heard “Sugar Man” on some online radio station, liked it, and tracked it back to Rodriguez, which pointed me to the film. I was in college in Michigan while Rodriguez was in Detroit trying to make it, but I never heard his music. Listening to it now it’s pretty clear that his vibe didn’t fit the times, so I’m not surprised that he didn’t make it big in the States. But that whole idea of being famous without even knowing it? Mind blowing.


    1. Hi John. I’m glad to hear we have a shared interest in Rodriguez. You make an intriguing statement — that “his vibe didn’t fit the times.” To my ear, he sounds a lot like other folk singer/songwriters of the era, hence my comparison to Dylan. So, I’m curious to ask why you think his vibe didn’t fit the times.


  2. It’s hard to put your finger on something like the vibe. I feel pretty attuned to all the genres of pop and rock during that era so my ear is pretty well tuned. I listened to several Rodriguez songs after watching the movie and to my ear they just didn’t fit. As I recall there was some mismatch on those records between the vocal style and the instrumentation, which seemed to feature a lot of strings for some reason. By the time Rodriguez started putting out records Dylan had gone a long way past his folk beginnings. It’s worth noting also that Dylan was a unique practitioner — not much folky music was being listened to in any form after around 1965. Neil Young? Not really. Joni Mitchell? Too arty. In Detroit Motown had already peaked, while bands like Bob Seger and the MC5 and Iggy Pop were pushing toward punk. I mean there was a lot of pop music that made it big in England and Australia that never made it in the USA — not worse, just a different vibe, a different taste. Clearly Rodriguez had talent, but he doesn’t sound like late-60’s hits.


Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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