It’s a real-life tale of talent disregarded, bad luck and missed opportunities, with an improbable stop in the Hamptons and a Hollywood conclusion: A singer-songwriter is signed to a contract in the late 1960s after producers with ties to Motown Records see him playing in a smoky Detroit nightclub called the Sewer. He makes a pair of albums that sell almost nothing and then drops out of sight. So why, 40 years later, would anyone feel compelled to make a movie about this obscure artist, known professionally as Rodriguez?
Because, as it turns out, on the other side of the globe, in South Africa, Rodriguez had become as popular as the Rolling Stones or Elvis Presley. But he never knew of that success. He never saw a penny in royalties from it, and he spent decades doing manual labor to make ends meet and raise his three daughters. It wasn’t until fans in South Africa, trying to verify rumors he was dead, tracked him down through the Internet and brought him there to perform to adoring multitudes, that his career was resuscitated.