This year's Oscar for best documentary went to Searching For Sugar Man, a film that follows two South African fans of the cult musician Sixto Rodriguez as they attempt to figure out if, as rumors have it, he died, or if he's still toiling in obscurity. The film explores how Rodriguez went from an almost-was folk star of the early '70s to a largely forgotten cult icon, to a favorite once again of the clued-in.
A major catalyst for all of this, though, was Light in the Attic Records, which has a connection to Fort Lauderdale's Radio-Active Records.
Light in the Attic is a small reissue label based in Seattle and Los Angeles. In the late '00s, label founder Matt Sullivan reissued two Rodriguez albums, 1970's Cold Fact and 1971's Coming From Reality.
Light in the Attic is small, but highly influential among critics and vinyl collectors, and these two re-releases set off a Sixto Rodriguez mini-craze that eventually snowballed into the documentary. Light in the Attic then, in turn, released the official Searching For Sugar Man soundtrack upon the film's release.
"We get passionate about something here and sometimes we just go out on a limb and release it and hope that people catch on," Sullivan told me in an interview last year. "[The Rodriguez records] are my favorite things we've ever released. It has this timeless quality to it I can't put it into words. And working with him's been fabulous."
Now then comes the longstanding connection between Light in the Attic and Fort Lauderdale-based music store Radio-Active Records. The latter specializes almost entirely in vinyl, offering both reissues and the kind of dusty, crate-digging gems on which Light in the Attic releases are based. In fact, Sullivan says he first connected with Radio-Active after viewing the shop's Instagram page, which documents customers' purchases. "I love following that thing every day and seeing what people buy," Sullivan says. Finally, in June of 2012, they took the friendship into real life when Sullivan DJed a party at the shop.
This means you can get familiar with Oscar-worthy Sixto Rodriguez by visiting Radio-Active, which carries all of his reissues and other Light in the Attic releases. For music fans, these are worth exploring in their physical, rather than digital versions. Light in the Attic efforts lovingly re-master the original recordings and pair them with new, limited-edition artwork and deeply researched liner notes. The end product is a true collector's item that supports the artist more directly than a digital stream.