“Sugar man, won’t you hurry. Cause I’m tired of these scenes”
Searching for Sugar Man (2012) is a documentary which showcases the importance of music and how artist, Sixto Rodriguez inspired a movement against South Africa’s apartheid from 1948-1993. The apartheid, referring to ‘separateness’ began in 1948 when the National Party came into power. Non-white South Africans were forced to live separately from white South Africans, causing unrest across the nation.
As revealed in Hyslop’s reading, “the likeable but naive Stephen Segerman, the music fan who tracked down Rodriguez, portrays the musician’s songs as the anthems of a revolution. But a revolution by whom is never quite made clear.” Perhaps, trying to give Rodriguez’s lyrics more purpose in the context of the apartheid. South Africa was highly censored during the apartheid, which limited Rodriguez’s presence.
Billie Holiday (like Rodriguez) is remembered for her use of lyrics to convey the racial injustices in the U.S during the late 1930s. ‘Strange Fruit‘ was inspired by a photograph of a horrific lynching which demonstrated the harsh, brutal reality of racism in the South, “black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze.”
It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Civil Rights Movement developed further with Aretha Franklin calling for ‘Respect’. Then, Curtiss Mayfield came into the American music industry aware of the need for equality, his acclaimed song ‘People Get Ready’ was an anthem for African-Americans to ‘get aboard’.
The spreading political and social awareness only grew. Stevie Wonder shared similar beliefs as Martin Luther King in his promotion for love and joy. His anti-war views were illustrated in his lyrics, “Hate’s goin’ round / breaking many hearts / stop it please” in his song, ‘Love’s in Need of Love Today’.
Music defines the life experiences of many. It is a great tool in educating and transporting minds elsewhere. We all need music!
- Hyslop, Jonathan 2013, ‘”Days of miracle and wonder’? conformity and revolt in searching for sugar man’, Safundi, vol. 14, no.4, pp. 490-501
- Titlestad, Michael 2013, ‘Searching for the sugar-coated man’, Safundi, vol. 14, no.4, pp. 466-470
- Blair, Elizabeth 2012, ‘The Strange Story of the Man behind ‘Strange Fruit”, NPR Music, http://www.npr.org/2012/09/05/158933012/the-strange-story-of-the-man-behind-strange-fruit