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Singer’s in the market for ‘Winn-Dixie’ film

Special to The Times

So you’ve got Dave Matthews in your movie playing the part of a musician, and he’s written a song for the character to sing.

It’s a no-brainer that to highlight the song, you’d get him to record a fully produced version to be used over the end credits and make it the centerpiece of a soundtrack album and of the film’s marketing campaign, right?

Maybe not.

Both Matthews and the makers of “Because of Winn-Dixie,” in which the singer has a prominent role, are not sure they want to follow that course.

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It’s got nothing to do with the song, “Butterfly,” which in the course of the story is sung by Matthews’ character, a drifter in a small Southern town, to the main character, a girl who has adopted a stray dog called Winn-Dixie after the Southeast grocery-store chain. The film, directed by Wayne Wang, is based on an award-winning children’s novel by Kate DiCamillo and is finishing shooting in Thibodeaux, La.

“It’s a gorgeous, amazing little ballad,” says Trevor Albert, the movie’s producer.

The issue is that both the filmmakers and Matthews’ team want to keep the focus on his on-screen persona.

“I don’t want the audience to hear a Dave Matthews song and snap out of thinking about what he did on screen,” says Bruce Flohr, head of A&R; for ATO Records and head of marketing for Red Light Management, both of which are co-owned by Matthews.

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Of course, there have been plenty of cases where people known as musicians acted and provided songs in movies, although the most prominent have been ones where music was part of the fabric of the story, such as “The Bodyguard” with Whitney Houston, and the line was blurred already between the on-screen character and the real-life singer.

Flohr cites Jewel’s dual role as an actress and end-song performer in 1999’s Civil War story “Ride With the Devil” as an example of the kind of concern he has for this film.

“Jewel had a song in the movie and I thought it was bothersome,” he says. “There she is acting, and then there’s her singing the song.”

Albert and Flohr say that they haven’t ruled out Matthews doing a new version of the song for official release. They just want to make sure it doesn’t detract from his acting.

“The music is really secondary, although he did write a fantastic song,” Albert says. “At this point he only sings the one song, and then at the end there’s a gospel thing where he’s singing with Cicely Tyson and all the characters.”

On a purely musical front, Matthews may also be headed for new horizons. Discussions are under way for him and Phish leader Trey Anastasio to fly to Dakar, Senegal, to collaborate with musicians there for a special to be aired on either MTV or VH1.

The project, which would happen in early 2004 at the conclusion of the current Dave Matthews & Friends tour, is being spearheaded by MTV executives Tom Freston and Bill Flanagan with hopes that it’s the first of a series featuring Western musicians collaborating with musicians around the globe.

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A high-flying auction item

Krist NOVOSELIC, the former Nirvana bassist, has said he might run for lieutenant governor in his home state of Washington next year. But first he’s going to fly. Novoselic, a licensed pilot, is offering a trip in his private plane with him at the controls as an item for bidding in a fund-raising auction benefiting the People for the American Way.

Novoselic will fly to any West Coast city to pick up the high bidder and then take him or her to another city for dinner and conversation on whatever topics the winner chooses and then fly back home.

It’s the most unusual item in an auction organized by former Reprise Records President Howie Klein, with about 80% of the hundreds of donated items music-related. Bidding starts today via the People for the American Way Web site (www.pfaw.org) and closes next Sunday. Klein hopes to double the $100,000 raised by last year’s auction.

Electronic artist BT is also offering to fly a bidder, albeit on a commercial airline. He’s offering a trip to any concert on his 2004 tour, with air and hotel paid and full access to the behind-the-scenes happenings at the show. Different inside experiences are being offered by producers Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and many other albums) and David Kahne (whose many projects include Paul McCartney’s “Driving Rain” and four Sugar Ray albums). Each will spend a day with the high bidders in a studio session with them to learn about the art of producing.

Klein, focusing on the free-speech crusade of the benefiting organization, also sought signed, handwritten lyrics from artists who have stirred controversy with their songs. Most notorious is a copy of Ice-T’s “Cop Killer.” Also on auction will be autographed copies of Madonna’s recent children’s books; signed shoes from Bette Midler, choreographer Twyla Tharp and former televangelist Tammy Faye Messner; and various signed guitars and platinum album awards.

Novoselic is not the only 2004 campaign hopeful contributing. Democratic presidential candidate (and physician) Howard Dean has donated a signed stethoscope.

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Small faces

* MTV has recruited Snoop Dogg, Method Man, Mya, Tracy Morgan, Kelis and OutKast’s Andre 3000 and Big Boi to supply the voices for the channel’s English-dubbed presentation of the South Korean martial arts film “Volcano High.” The movie, originally released in 2001, is set in a high school and is noted for its spectacular stunts and effects as well as a tongue-in-cheek tone, which is likely to be enhanced by the new dialogue. The dubbed version will premiere on Dec. 21.

* Can’t tell Phish from Lake Trout? “Jambands,” a guide to the jam scene by www.jambands.com founder Dean Budnick, is set for January publication from Backbeat Books. Along with a comprehensive catalog of the artists and other particulars of that world, the book features an introduction by Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks and includes a CD of rare tracks by moe., the Disco Biscuits and others.

* Fortunately Larry King doesn’t sing on it, but the CNN talk-show host has gotten some famous friends to give songs to “Gotta Love the Holidays,” a collection of seasonal recordings benefiting the Larry King Cardiac Foundation. The CD, due Dec. 9 from Warner Bros./143 Records, features contributions from Elton John, Celine Dion, Barry Manilow, Natalie Cole, Michael Buble and the newly recorded title song, written by Bruce Roberts, arranged by David Foster and sung by Shawn King, Larry’s wife. The TV personality does lend his voice to the album, joining Sharon Stone for a spoken performance of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.”


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