In Platoon, director Oliver Stone crafted a film which served to show Americans at home what really went on during those years. The film took place during 1967 and 1968 and used the music of the Vietnam era to compliment certain scenes. While not every song on the Platoon soundtrack appears in the film, as listeners of this compilation we can appreaciate the padding they give to the overall feel of the film. Platoon is a gutsy, driven and accurate retelling of one man’s experiences, and should be treated with respect.
10. Ookie from Muskogee by Merle Haggard
Written and performed by country music artist Merle Haggard, “Ookie From Muskogee” referred to a town in Oklahoma. Released in 1969 its placement in the film is questionable, as Platoon takes place during 1967 and 1968. Be that as it may, it fits the scene nicely. Here, soldiers are seen enjoying some contraband and discussing the song.
9. Groovin by The Young Rascals
“Groovin'” was a number one hit by The Young Rascals. The song refers to the fact that the band members were required to work 6 days a week, with only Sundays off. This meant they only had one day to spend with their ladies, hence the song meaning. Composed by band members Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati in 1967. According to Cavaliere, The simplicity of it is that Sundays you could be with your loved one. And the beauty of is this joyous bliss that at that time I equated with a person, but that’s the beauty of music – when it’s an example of what you do it lasts forever. You’re in love forever because of that moment in time that you captured, and that’s what was happening with ‘Groovin’.
8. Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding
Released on January 8, 1968 “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” became Otis Redding’s biggest hit. The song was composed by guitarist Steve Cropper and Otis Redding. According to Cropper, “Otis was one of those kind of guys who had 100 ideas. Anytime he came in to record he always had 10 or 15 different intros or titles, or whatever. He had been at San Francisco playing The Fillmore, and he was staying at a boathouse (in Sausalito, across the bay from San Francisco), which is where he got the idea of the ship coming in. That’s about all he had: ‘I watch the ships come in and I watch them roll away again.’ I took that and finished the lyrics.”
7. Tracks of My Tears by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
The underworld scene in Platoon is also referred to as the smoking scene. Here, Taylor is introduced to the “underworld”, where he parties with the rest of the men and partakes in smoking weed for the first time. The scene opens up with “White Rabbit” and finishes with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles “Tracks of my Tears”.
6. Hello I Love You by The Doors
Composed by the Doors front man, Jim Morrison in 1965, this classic rock song was actually considered by stalwart fans as a sell-out move, as it was played on top-40 radio stations. Inspired when seeing a gorgeous woman enjoying the beach, Morrison completed this song in one day. The song charted on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 at number one, as well as being certified gold.
5. Barnes Shoots Elias by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, as conducted by Georges Delerue, this piece accompanies betrayal of Elias by Barnes. \ The piece is a tidy blend of suspense, impending death all wrapped up in a sense of woe. Not a pretty song, but the scene it accents is not a pretty one. It’s one of betrayal of trust that results in death.
4. When a Man Loves a Woman by Percy Sledge
“When a Man Love a Woman”, was composed by Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright. In 1966 Percy Sledge performed the song which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. According to Percy Sledge when he first performed the song, it reminded him of a woman who left him in order to take on a modeling job in L.A. and he was unable to go find her, “I didn’t have any money to go after her, so there was nothing I could do to try and get her back.” Popular with Vietnam soldiers overseas, the song was included in the Platoon soundtrack.
3. Respect by Aretha Franklin
Composed by Otis Redding, “Respect” became one of his favorite songs, “That’s one of my favorite songs because it has a better groove than any of my records…Everybody wants respect, you know.” There exist many covers of the song, but Franklin’s rendition is considered the best of the lot. In fact, it reached number one on both the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
2. White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane
“White Rabbit” is can be considered one of the signature songs of the Vietnam War. Written by Grace Slick and performed by her band Jefferson Airplane, the lyrics were based on the book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The song appears during the smoking scene in Platoon. Quite the perfect fit as the song was filled with drug references.
1. Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber
Adagio for Strings is considered the main theme for Platoon, and plays throughout the movie when necessary, such as the village scene. The link to the piece is the version with Charlie Sheen’s commentary towards the conclusion of the film. Composed by Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings has been a part of the lives of Americans since it’s creation. For instance, it was played over the radio when FDR’s death was officially announced, as well as for JFK and Albert Einsteins funerals.
Platoon is a haunting spectacle, one designed to grab hold of the viewers soul, and make them feel what these men and villagers felt during this tumultuous time. The Platoon soundtrack expertly reflects the film’s mood. For instance, “Adagio for Strings”, wraps our hearts around its melody as the rain pelts the brush during the opening sequence, deftly foretelling the tragic events which are to come. While “White Rabbit” gives us a glimpse of one of the few times soldiers could experience an escape from their situation, even for a little bit. The Platoon soundtrack does what it’s supposed to do: Empathize with these people. Respect our veterans, please.