The musician that Eddie Vedder found “intimidating” to work with

Eddie Vedder

Throughout his illustrious career, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder has had the opportunity to work with many artists he admires. Naturally, after 30 years at the top of the music industry, Vedder has grown accustomed to working with his heroes. But his peers can still intimidate him on occasion.

Aside from his solo career and work with Pearl Jam, Vedder has expanded his horizons by creating several film soundtracks. In total, the rock vocalist has contributed to over a half-dozen projects and is now an expert at his craft. Ted Robbins asked Vedder to work on the soundtrack for the 1996 film Dead Man Walking. But he was unfamiliar with the role.

This appears to be no different from standard songwriting. The song must be appropriate for a specific scene in the film. Furthermore, Vedder did not work on the project alone. Robbins had paired him with Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s most talented vocalists.

His musical background couldn’t be more different from Vedder’s.  Robbins believed that the talents of the two artists could create magic. The collaborative process got off to a rocky start. But with Vedder nervous, they eventually delivered ‘The Long Road‘ and ‘The Face of Love‘, making Robbin’s maverick move look like a stroke of unquestionable genius.

In Uncut, Eddie Vedder described his work with Khan as “intimidating on many levels.” We worked together for a few days. Tim Robbins put us together for the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. And everything had to be translated through an interpreter because I was told he didn’t speak English.”

He exhibited a centered demeanor, resembling a Buddhist statue in many ways. ” And when he sang, it was as if he was channeling something extremely powerful and spiritual,” Vedder explained.

While they struggled at first, once they got to know each other better, Khan was able to speak freely without the assistance of an interpreter. It proved to be a watershed moment in their collaborative process.

Vedder continued, “After two days of talking through the interpreter, they left us alone in the room.” And he looked at me and said, in perfect English, ‘You have a very nice voice’. It was like that scene in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, where the Indian guy finally talks to Jack Nicholson. I thought, “You son of a bitch!” And, of course, we continued to talk and got along great.”

The Pearl Jam singer then explained how their friendship lasted beyond their collaboration on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. He also said how they reconnected several times after finishing their work. Khan tragically died only a year after the film’s release, which Vedder described as “much, much too early.”

The unlikely pairing of Khan and Vedder had no reason to work. But their sonic fusion resulted in a one-of-a-kind pair of tracks that served as the ideal accompaniment to Dead Man Walking. Furthermore, the overall soundtrack received high praise. It was with Bruce Springsteen’s title track nominated for ‘Best Original Song‘ at the Academy Awards.

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