In the early 1970s, a singer-songwriter from Detroit who called himself Rodriguez released a pair of soul-inflected, Dylanesque albums that were ignored by the masses but worshipped by a few.
Then he disappeared, prompting false rumors of suicide (by shooting himself in the head; by setting himself on fire on stage). By the late seventies, bootlegs of his out-of-print 1970 masterpiece Cold Fact had made their way to South Africa, where white antiapartheid activists took inspiration from the songs' damn-the-man lyrics and—unbeknownst to Rodriguez—turned him into a symbol of resistance.
In Searching for Sugar Man (opening Friday, July 27), filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul traces the mid-nineties quest of two Afrikaners to find the artist who'd become (in their country, at least) "bigger than Elvis." The film, which received multiple standing ovations at its Sundance premiere, is worth seeing for the music alone—to say nothing of a story line complete with a mind-bending twist that proves, once again, that truth is stranger than fiction.
Scroll down to listen to four Rodriguez tracks on Spotify.
—Rachel Rosenblit, entertainment editor at Details