“For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield
“Music is what feelings sound like”. Author Unknown
The greatest film soundtracks are those that play just as big a role as the actors. Great soundtracks add depth and support to a film. One of the most acclaimed was that of the classic film, Forrest Gump. The album includes several famous tracks, and was nominated for an Academy Award. One song in particular is imprinted in my mind forever. That song is Buffalo Springfield’s, For What It’s Worth, from 1966. It is interesting to note that this song is only playing for a portion of a scene, but it is regarded as one of the most famous tracks from the film. I believe this song represents the film as a whole, and the feelings that the track evokes emulate those of the film as well. Forrest Gump is difficult to categorize in one particular genre, but it has elements of drama, comedy, war, and romance. The song embodies all these elements as well, thus corroborating the genre and establishing more of the overall theme.
Springfield’s song plays at the beginning of Forrest’s trek through Vietnam with his unit and Lieutenant Dan. As the first verse begins, it is pouring down rain. The men are trying to navigate through with wide nervous eyes and anxious thoughts of what is to come. The first lyrics heard are, “There’s something happening here…what it is aint exactly clear…” Without the soldiers saying anything, that lyric alone sets the tone for the beginning of the scene. The calm, steady, yet almost somber tone of the song personifies the same feelings that Forrest and the others have in that moment. This is a perfect example of pathos because the song lyrics and tone create an emotional connection to the characters. In their book, Everything’s an Argument, Andrea Lunsford and John Ruszkiewicz write, “When writers and speakers find the words and images that evoke certain emotions in people, they might also move their audiences to sympathize with ideas that they connect to those feelings and even to act on them” (Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz 41). This song connects the viewer to the characters immediately, and helps them further understand what the characters are experiencing.
As the song and the characters continue moving forward, a feeling emerges that something is about to happen. The mention of guns in the lyrics and Forrest’s voice over both add to the building anticipation. In his book, Understanding Movies, Louis Giannetti writes, “Music can be used as foreshadowing, especially when the dramatic context doesn’t permit a director to prepare the audience for an event” (Giannetti 214). This song feels like the calm before the storm; it is almost daze-like. The metaphorical storm that ensues in the second half of this scene is a gruesome battle that the lyrics abstractly alluded to.
The song even possesses logos and ethos appeals. The vibe of the track almost resembles slow talking instead of singing. The singer asks young people to see and understand what is happening around them. The lyrics come across as calm and logical. In terms of ethos, it is important to understand a little background on the song. Stephen Stills was inspired to write the song because of the civil unrest that was plaguing his hometown of Los Angeles in the 1960’s. The song became an anthem for protestors and was eventually slapped with an anti-war label. Knowing that the songwriter experienced the tumultuous sixties gives the song even more credibility in the film.
When I think about how to rate this song I ask myself, would the scene have been the same without it? Personally, I believe that the film itself would not have been the same. The song represents the themes and feelings of the entire film, and the fact that it only is heard in a small segment yet it made such a huge impact speaks to its effect. I would give this song three tickets for its part in Forrest Gump. It sets the scene, sparks feeling, and connects the film to real life.