The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


February 22, 2013

Jeremiah Tucker: Documentaries give musicians their due

JOPLIN, Mo. — Despite the fact that it's nominated for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards this Sunday, "Searching for Sugar Man" can sometimes feel like science fiction.

In America, Detroit native Sixto Rodriguez's music career ended after exactly two albums of moody, ruminative and occasionally gorgeous folk-rock. Meanwhile, in South Africa, Rodriguez -- his stage name as well as his surname -- became an icon more popular than the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan.

He was the voice of the counter-culture, his songs of social commentary the soundtrack for the anti-Apartheid movement. He sold more than 500,000 records.

Rodriguez's stature in South Africa was the inverse of his standing in his home country, as if some alternate-universe version of himself lived on the other side of the world, providing a poignant counterpoint to everything he failed to accomplish in America. It could be an episode of "The Twilight Zone."

But what really did happen to Rodriguez?

That's the question that "Searching for Sugar Man," out now on DVD, attempts to answer. No one in South Africa -- not the music journalists or the record executives profiting off his songs -- knew anything about Rodriguez's life. Even how his music first came to South Africa is unclear. Of his eventual fate -- the rumors were that he either blew his head off on stage or overdosed.

It's best to go into this documentary possessing no knowledge of Rodriguez. And unless you encounter a news item related to this documentary, it's unlikely you do.

For one, you'll likely find the music revelatory. Considering American audiences at the time were embracing all manner of dubious, sentimental singer-songwriter pap from the likes of Harry Chapin, Jim Croce and Don McClean, it is especially criminal that Rodriguez failed so miserably here.

At its best, Rodriguez's music resembles that of Bill Withers, another working-class singer-songwriter who is earthy and natural. If Rodriguez's self-conscious lyricism is sometimes clunky, he's a good performer with a nice voice, and his songs are often sturdy enough to support the occasionally indulgent lyrics.

The other reason to go in unspoiled is the documentary is deliciously manipulative, dropping red herrings and withholding information like a "Dateline" murder mystery, but with much better cinematography. It's also nice to watch people solve a pop-culture conundrum that requires more work than a few Google searches, especially when the goal is to bring deserved recognition to a decent man, even if it arrived a few decades late.

Text Only
  • Wichita.jpg Going Western: Indie film 'Wichita' to show tonight at MSSU

    Nicholas Burton isn't exactly raising a cash cow on his livestock ranch. But the Wichita, Kan.-based filmmaker has an advantage over other film producers: Westerns are in high demand, and he's in the perfect spot to make them.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041114_pajama game.jpg Love, labor liven up JHS musical 'Pajama Game'

    The spring musical put on by the Joplin High School Theatre Department deals with a labor of love among a labor dispute.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • MSSU choir, orchestra combines for performance of legendary 'Carmina Burana'

    The free performance is a joint effort between the Southern Symphonic Chorus, which is composed of the MSSU Concert Chorale and volunteer singers, and the orchestra, which is made up of Missouri Southern students, faculty and professionals from the community.

    April 11, 2014

  • 1520face.JPG Globe Phone Test: Nokia Lumia 1520's outstanding camera offset by frustrating OS

    On Monday, news broke that flight attendants aboard Delta Airlines flights would receive Nokia Lumia 1520 devices in October. The devices will have flight manuals, support on-board sales, allow attendants to process credit card payments and crapcan heavy 500-page manuals they used have to bring.

    The move is similar to how American Airlines attendants were give Galaxy Note phablets. Because Delta already gave attendants similar smartphones, it's reasonable to assume that the company places a lot of faith in the Windows Phone system.

    But Delta's choice of device is puzzling because the 1520 is better suited to take photos and videos of people on board an airplane, not take their drink and meal orders. And because the device is so big, I'm not sure how flight attendants would feel carrying it around in a cramped flight.


    As the iOS and Android systems struggle for the top smartphone operating system, Microsoft's Windows Phone has scratched its way into the No. 3 spot, pushing past BlackBerry. Nokia, once one of the top names in devices, is pairing with Microsoft to make a device that features an incredible camera. The company already made the Lumia 1020, which features a humongous 41-megapixel camera that does amazing things.

    The Lumia 1520 is its biggest offering to date. The device, available exclusively from AT&T, is one of the biggest phablet-style phones on the market today. For about 10 days, I tested out a black-colored device provided by AT&T.


    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jermiah-Tucker-020812.jpg Jeremiah Tucker: Kurt Cobain likely would have thrived in today's music scene

    I have no memory of the day he died. A friend asked me about this recently, and I said at that age -- I would've been 13 -- I was probably still rocking my cassingle of the Escape Club's "Wild Wild West." Needless to say, my middle school years were rough.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • images_sizedimage_108172906 Benji Tunnell: 'Winter Soldier' sets a high bar for summer movie season

    If a film was truly great, it would be held until June or July. Or so the thinking might have been before the release last week of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Marta-mug.jpg Marta Churchwell: Joplin mural part of Benton's larger message

    Recently, I received information on Joplin's celebration of one of its native sons, Thomas Hart Benton. In observance of the artist's 125th birthday, City Hall will host a collection of his works alongside his mural that honors Joplin history.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 040814 Worldfest.jpg World Fest pairs well with Celebrate America

    The Slinkerds think Silver Dollar City's World Fest is a great opportunity to show their young children other cultures and introduce them to people from around the world.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ka-Pow! New attraction offers free-fall plunge

    On May 17, two brave souls willing to whether mid-May¹s unpredictable weather will climb into the two drop-floor aqua-launch capsules atop KaPau Plummet.

    April 11, 2014 1 Slideshow

  • Jermiah-Tucker-020812.jpg Jeremiah Tucker: Letterman performance gives deserved boost to Future Islands

    It's hard to believe an appearance on a late-night talk show can still make a band's career. It's such a common occurrence and the cultural currency of the late-night format has dropped so much in recent years that, short of literally setting the stage ablaze or stabbing the host, the most a band could hope for is a couple of polite blog notices.

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo