An Unlikely Hero: Rodriguez

Rodriguez 01Sixto Rodriguez/Searching for Sugar Man, 2012 Sony Pictures Classics

Finally got the chance to view “Searching for Sugar Man” over the weekend and I highly recommend this truly extraordinary documentary. The film tells an unbelievable story of the musician, Rodriguez, who was famously unsuccessful here in America and across the world in South Africa was….just famous, which would have been great, if only he had been made aware of it.

“The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle.” – Anais Nin

The reason why his two albums released here in America, which were quite accomplished with poetic, soulful lyrics failed to take off is a bit of a musical mystery and one Rodriguez himself shrugged off by saying, “it’s the music business, there are no guarantees”.  However it was a very different story playing out in South Africa, to the people suffering through the oppressive forces of the apartheid era – they were frustrated, fearful, largely cut off from the rest of the world, yet at the same time, ripe for revolution and looking for inspiration, which they found in the lyrics and spirit of Rodriguez’s albums Cold Fact & Coming from Reality. His lyrics inspired them to fight against their circumstances.

Rumors of his death have been greatly exaggerated….

The film follows two Cape Town fans who were anxious to uncover the mystery surrounding the artist Rodriguez, and to discover the truth behind his rumored death. As they were nearly ready to give up, Rodriguez’s daughter Eva saw their website pleas for information and the rest as they say is history. And so finally Rodriguez, very much alive…found out that he had been an icon and hero of the South African people for over twenty years and prepared to meet his longtime fans for the first time.

Rodriguez 02Rodriguez in Detroit

What I found even more amazing than the story was Sixto Rodriguez himself, a man full of grace, humble and hard-working, who when he found that in another country he had been more famous than Elvis, didn’t lament his misfortune at all but merely enjoyed finding some recognition for his work before returning to his everyday life back here in Detroit. Truly extraordinary.

James Montgomery: From Detroit to the Delta

“It was the first time I ever saw a band play live blues with harmonica. At the Chessmate, anyone could go because it was all ages – this was around ’66. Detroit had a great blues scene back then. At the Chessmate you could go in and catch a Muddy Waters set and then see the backstage shows. They’d have jams in the dressing rooms with John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters & James Cotton – it was just a really great time to grow up in Detroit.” ~James Montgomery {Metro Times/Brett Callwood}

Although James Montgomery was born in Detroit, by the end of the sixties he’d made his way to Boston, hoping to make a name in the more blues-heavy northeast. Apparently James made the right choice as he did well for himself, playing cities where blues and jazz artists are well appreciated and even today gigs are easy for him to book.

A life-long blues man, {singing & harp} James has played, collaborated and formed friendships with some of the best: B.B. King, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker to name a few. He has played alongside his longtime guitarist, Jimmy McCarty, as well as, Johnny Winter, the Allman Brothers, Aerosmith, J. Giels, and Wayne Kramer (MC5).

Montgomery will headline the ‘Antifreeze Blues Festival’ at The Magic Bag in Ferndale on January 6th and has an upcoming record, collaborating with The Uptown Horns, James Cotton, Brad Whitford (Aerosmith), Johnny Winter, & DMC from Run DMC – called “From Detroit to the Delta”. For info on the blues fest & his new cd:

The Magic Bag

James Montgomery

A Winter’s Tale

The Poet’s Dream, Robert Weir, c. 1830/Detroit Institute of Arts Collection

The Detroit Institute of Arts is currently holding an exhibition called, “Once Upon a Time: Prints & Drawings that Tell Stories” which runs from December 21, 2011 thru May 13, 2012. The exhibition features works that have rarely or never been seen at the museum before.

Some examples on display, (from the DIA website): David Hockney’s etchings from Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, a volume of Moby Dick with illustrations by Norman Rockwell, a copy of the 15th-century Nuremberg Chronicle, Wassily Kandinsky’s Klange, Henri Matisse’s Parsiphal, Jim Dine’s Picture of Dorian Gray, and many more European and American works on paper from a variety of eras.

The DIA’s Facebook page says that the exhibition is free with museum admission. If you live in the area or are visiting family or friends over the holiday season, be sure to check it out.

The Detroit Institute of Arts
Once Upon a Time: Prints & Drawings that Tell Stories

Seasons of Wither

“The Spirit of Music” ©Carl Lundgren

It’s that time of year again…days are gettin’ colder and darker. Seemed fitting to pair up a painting from one of my favorite Detroit artists, Carl Lundgren and a terrific song written by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. The two just seem to fit together perfectly. Carl’s painting is called, “The Spirit of Music” and here is a great version of Aerosmith’s “Seasons of Wither” from their unplugged concert. Enjoy!

Cathedral of Finance

Photograph: Flickr/Girl in the D

Detroit is rich in beautiful Art Deco architecture and there is perhaps no better example than the Guardian Building. Originally named the Union Guardian Building, it was designed by Wirt Roland (Smith, Hinchman & Grylls) and built in 1928. The interior is filled with mosaic, Pewabic and Rookwood tile. The building, which is currently owned by Wayne County, became a National Historic Landmark on June 29, 1989.

Photograph: Flickr/Girl in the D

It’s exterior (496ft./40 stories), like it’s interior, is quite grand. The shade of the orange brick was formulated specifically for this building, and dubbed Guardian Brick by the architect. Here it is, rising up, at 500 Griswold Avenue, Detroit, Michigan.

Motown Morning

Photograph: Flickr/Christopher.D

I decided to put up some photographs of Detroit, to show it’s beauty, rather than all the bad imagery that is usually shown to represent our city. This shot shows traffic on I75 coming into the city, with the Saint Josaphat Roman Catholic Church (est. 1901) in the foreground and the silouette of the General Motors Renaissance Center Building behind. The Ren Cen is on the waterfront and it’s amazing how well it mixes in with all the breathtaking old architecture of the city.

Cool it Down

Photograph: Flickr/Rogiro

It’s so hot out there, I thought I’d cool things down with a great poem about winter, by the late, Detroit poet, Robert Hayden (1913-1980). I love this one, it’s short but full of feeling.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know? What did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

~Robert Hayden