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January Hibernation: Searching for Sugar Man and Still Bill
If you’re anything like me, you may well feel at your least sociable at this time of year, following the excesses of Christmas and the New Year. Maybe you just want to batten down the hatches and hibernate on the sofa until you feel ready to get out there again. If this is the case, here are a couple of musical documentaries for you to settle down to this January…legally downloaded, of course! 😉
In some ways, the less you know about my first recommendation, the better. You’ll know what I mean if you watch it, but I’ll impart upon you just enough to whet your appetite.
Searching for Sugar Man tells the fascinating story of Sixto Rodriguez, a hitherto unknown musician, and the efforts of two South African fans to get to the bottom of rumours of his untimely demise. Rodriguez had released two albums, Cold Fact and Coming from Reality in the early 70s. Both were met with some acclaim, but very poor sales, and the singer/song-writer was subsequently dropped by his label, Sussex Records, and became a reclusive figure, living in a state of near-poverty in Detroit. Unbeknownst to Rodriguez, however, a copy of Cold Fact had been taken to South Africa by an American tourist, where it was promptly bootlegged before becoming one of the defining records of the Apartheid era for whites opposed to the regime.
Searching for Sugar Man is an emotionally rewarding film, enough to warm you up on even the coldest of winter nights.
Follow this up with Still Bill, which documents the life and music of soul/folk legend Bill Withers. Probably best known for his hits Ain’t No Sunshine and Lean on Me, Withers turned his back on the music industry in the mid-80s.
The main lasting impression of Damien Baker and Alex Vlack’s film is of Withers’ genuine niceness, unaffected by the adoration he received. He was most active during the 60s and 70s, but rejected the clichéd drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of those decades for a relatively normal one as a dedicated family man. During the film’s interviews, Withers’ warmness comes shining through as he talks about his simple philosophy for life.
So, get the curtains drawn, pour a large one and treat both your eyes and ears to a feast this January.
All the best for a musical 2014!