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Searching for Sugar Man’s Vintage Records

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The “Sugar Man” himself, Sixto Rodriguez

Stephen Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom may have miraculously found Sixto Rodriguez alive and kicking in Detroit and persuaded him to play some concerts in South Africa in the late 1990s, but that was the easy part. Finding original vinyl copies of the finally-famous 70-year-old folk singer’s two LPs, 1970’s Cold Fact and the following year’s Coming from Reality, get really difficult.

For the eight people who haven’t heard Rodriguez’s incredible story yet, he was an up-and-coming Detroit singer/songwriter whose two early ‘70s records flopped for Sussex, who dropped him soon after Coming from Reality’s release. He was perfectly content going back to his job as a day laborer after giving the music business the ol’ college try, but it turns out it wasn’t quite over yet. Although he never took off in the U.S., audiences in Australia and South Africa made him a superstar in their lands.

Last year’s Searching for Sugar Man documentary told the story of Rodriguez’s superstardom in South Africa (he had no idea people even knew who he was), which culminated with a sold-out tour of the country in 1998. The tale received a classic Hollywood ending in February, when Sugar Man won the Academy Award for Best Documentary.

Vinyl reissues of his albums were made available in various parts of the globe between 1978 and 2009, flooding the market with updated, 180-gram records that come in a fold-out sleeve. The soundtrack to Searching for Sugar Man, which serves as a best-of of sorts and includes several tracks not included on either Rodriguez album, was also released in 2012. All of these typically retail for around $30.

That’s all well and good, of course. However, now that Rodriguez is a retroactive ‘70s legend and thanks to those reissues, vintage copies of his records are almost as evasive as the man who made them once was. Music database website Discogs, the largest of its kind, lists seven original copies of the Coming from Reality vinyl and just one for Cold Fact. Copies of his second record vary in price from $60 to $250 (the priciest being a still-sealed mint edition), while the lone vinyl copy of his debut on Discogs was $150 as of late February.

Rodriguez fans who can’t track down an affordably-priced original pressing can still fill out their collection with plenty of cool items. In addition to the afore-mentioned 180-gram reissues and the Sugar Man soundtrack, there’s this exclusive “Inner City Blues/I’m Gonna Live Till I Die” 7” single from Record Store Day (released in a gatefold packaging and limited to 1,500 copies), a double-disc South African release called All the Facts that combines Cold Fact and Coming from Reality and several snazzy t-shirts that have been made available on Rodriguez’s 2012-13 world tour.

And if you can find this “I’ll Slip Away/You’d Like to Admit It” single from 1967, then you should make a documentary about the hunt. You might even be invited to a future Oscar ceremony!


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