There's nothing unique about musicians contributing songs to movie soundtracks, but India.Arie, Train and other artists are being asked to watch screenings of the upcoming Vietnam war film "We Were Soldiers" before submitting their tracks, a practice usually reserved for score composers.
"There's just something creatively fulfilling about watching a movie and writing a song for it because it helps you put on another pair of shoes," said Arie, who wrote the acoustic ballad "Good Man" for the movie.
The song tells the story of a family man who gets shipped off to battle and he and his wife have to face the possibility he might not be coming home.
"It's about something I've never been through," Arie said. "This woman and her husband got married really young and had a baby and made the pact, 'Whatever happens, meet me in heaven.' "
Train wrote the title track for "We Were Soldiers," and are currently working on it in the studio. Five for Fighting's song is not yet finished or titled.
Another highlight on the disc, which comes out February 26, is a collaboration between Dave Matthews and Johnny Cash called "For You" (see "Dave Matthews Collaborates With Cash For Mel Gibson Movie"). Since the song was written by Steve Rosen and country singer Paul Brandt, neither Cash nor Matthews was asked to catch a movie screening.
Soundtrack co-producer Ken Levitan invited the two to work together, and since they shared a mutual respect for one another's work, both were happy to accept the offer. However, Cash and Matthews recorded their parts in different locations. Cash laid down guitar and vocals at his plantation studio in the Caribbean and then sent the tape to Matthews. Cash's manager has described the track as a dark alternative/country song.
The "We Were Soldiers" soundtrack will also feature a duet between Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan) and Jamie O'Neal called "Not So Distant Day"; a cut by Mary Chapin Carpenter called "My Dear Old Friend," which was written by Patty Griffin; and a tune by Christian rock band Jars of Clay.
"We Were Soldiers," which hits theaters March 1, was directed by Randall Wallace ("The Man in the Iron Mask"). It stars Mel Gibson as Lt. Col. Hal Moore, who sends his soldiers in to fight the first major battle of the Vietnam War. The conflict took place on November 14, 1965, in the Ia Drang Valley, a village the French unsuccessfully tried to capture years before. The U.S. Army anticipated a quick search-and-destroy mission but wound up entrenched in a prolonged and bloody jungle battle that cost many lives.
The movie also stars Madeleine Stowe, Sam Elliott and Greg Kinnear, and is based on the book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young" by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway.