Sugarman’s Estonian Friend

Recently, I watched the documentary Searching For Sugarman about Sixto Rodriguez, an obscure psychedelic rock figure from the 1970s whose music was immensely popular in South Africa.  It’s shocking, I know, but a film that was universally acclaimed and seemed to mop up all the major awards turned out to be quite good.

On the film, they played a few of his songs, including “Cause.”

On that song, there’s a reference to his Estonian archangel.

According to the FAQ, that was about a guy who was the subject of another song.

Q: Who is Heikki?

A: Heikki was a real friend of Rodriguez (also referred to as “my Estonian Archangel”), see Eva’s memories.

It turns out that Rodriguez wrote a song “Heikki’s Suburbia Bus Tour” about his Estonian friend.

Rodriguez’s daughter talked about Heikki some more.

In the sixties, there were these people called hippies. It can be said that a long hair, dark skin, free thinking musician, like Rodriguez could have been labeled one. In my youth, I recall hearing about how the “rich folks” (those living in the suburbs), would come down to the inner city of Detroit to actually see these “oddities” in their natural environment. Maybe even take a picture or two. This happened to be my neighborhood and some of my people.

Rodriguez had a very good friend named Heikki. I remember a large man with long blond/brown hair. He had a very nice home, a wife named Linda and two huge bull mastiff dogs. Despite stereotypes, Heikki was a mathematician from “Estonia” (Estonia is a republic in North-Eastern Europe, near Finland) who rode a classic motorcycle. In fact, one of the places that Rodriguez played, a “motorcycle funeral”, was for one of Heikki’s friends. The motorcycle club was called “The Penetrators”.

Anyway, someone had made fun of Rodriguez’s friend. Protective of Heikki’s feelings, Rodriguez organized what I consider to be a peaceful form of retaliation. A bus was chartered, full of hippies, four gallons of wine, etc. The group went to Grosse Point, Michigan and surrounding areas where they visited suburbian malls and neighborhoods on a tour of their own. The rest, is in the music. The story made the newspapers in Detroit and also reached Florida (a southern U.S. state).

It’s kinda funny to realize that for about half a million people in South Africa, their main exposure to Estonia would be thanks to references to a friend of a protest rock singer from Detroit.

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About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. Currently, I’m writing a few comic books about my grandparents’ experiences in Soviet Estonia for Grayhaven comics. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
This entry was posted in Eesti, Film, Music and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sugarman’s Estonian Friend

  1. asd says:

    just heard the song from a radio in estonia and thought i heard wrong about “estonian archangel” 🙂

  2. Maris says:

    Thanks for clarifying this Estonian archangel issue for us! What an interesting piece of world music history and tiny Estonia involved in it.

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