Ethan Hawke Channels Jazz Great Chet Baker in “Born to Be Blue”

In Born to Be Blue, Ethan Hawke portrays jazz trumpeter and singer Chet Baker in a “re-imagining” of Baker’s mid-career struggles in the 1960s as he worked for a comeback after spending time in prison on drug charges. In the film, director Robert Budreau attempts to reveal the real Baker through a fictionalized romance with actress Jane Azuka, played by Carmen Ejogo.

It is always risky fictionalizing a biopic about a real person, although it can work in the right hands as it did for Todd Haynes’s treatment of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There (2007). From the trailer for Born to Be Blue, Budreau’s version of Baker seems more like a typical biopic with the exception that it is not completely true. But much of jazz music is about improvisation and variations, so perhaps the best way to understand Baker’s brilliance and demons is through a movie that riffs on his life.

Below is the trailer for Born to Be Blue, which opens in limited release starting on March 25, 2016.

In real life, Baker — who was born on December 23, 1929 — followed his brilliant success in the 1950s with struggles with heroin and other drugs throughout the rest of his life. After a difficult period in the 1960s, he began a comeback with his rediscovery fueling performances in Europe. In the early 1980s, he toured with Stan Getz and played on Elvis Costello’s album Punch the Clock (1983). On May 13, 1988, Baker was found dead on the sidewalk beneath his hotel room in Amsterdam, Netherlands, a death that was ruled an accident.

Baker’s death had previously inspired the Born to Be Blue director Budreau to speculate about how the death occurred. In 2009, he wrote and directed a short film about Baker’s death called The Deaths of Chet Baker. You may watch that short film, starring Stephen McHattie below.

Finally, if you are curious about why Budreau is so fascinated with Chet Baker, check out some of Baker’s performances and recordings, starting with this full performance live in Tokyo in 1987.

What is your favorite musical biopic? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    The First Song Loretta Lynn Ever Wrote

    Loretta Lynn is releasing her first new studio album since her 2004 collaboration with Jack White, Van Lear Rose. The upcoming album, Full Circle, sounds like it will have been worth waiting for.

    The new album, produced by Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash, delves into Lynn’s roots and influences. According to her website, Full Circle “takes listeners on a journey through Loretta’s musical story, from the Appalachian folk songs and gospel music she learned as a child, to new interpretations of her classic hits and country standards, to songs newly-written for the project.”

    A few guests pop up on the new album too. Willie Nelson joins Lynn on “Lay Me Down,” while Elvis Costello provides guest vocals on “Everything It Takes.”

    The 83-year-old singer-songwriter also includes a new version of the first song she ever wrote, “Whispering Sea.” In the song about heartbreak, the singer recounts how she learned from the whispering sea that her lover had been untrue. In the chorus, she sings: “Whispering sea rolling by, why don’t you listen to me cry? / I cry because my love has proved untrue.”

    The tracks are not available for listening yet, but below you check out a performance of “Whispering Sea” where Lynn was joined onstage by Jack White.

    Loretta Lynn’s Full Circle is available for pre-order and will hit stores and the Internet on March 4, 2016.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    New Track from Darlene Love: “Forbidden Nights”

    Steve Van Zandt is finally fulfilling a 35-year promise to produce an album by 1960s legend Darlene Love. The upcoming album Introducing Darlene Love includes the song “Forbidden Nights.”

    Introducing Darlene Love is her first album of secular songs in three decades. Listen to one of the tracks from the album,”Forbidden Nights,” in the video below. It sounds great, and the video filmed in Asbury Park, NJ also features appearances by Van Zandt, Joan Jett, Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, David Letterman, Paul Shaffer, and Bill Murray.

    The album includes songs written by Van Zandt, Linda Perry, Joan Jett, Bruce Springsteen, and Elvis Costello. It also features a cover of “River Deep — Mountain High,” which was originally recorded by Ike and Tina Turner with Love’s former producer Phil Spector. Introducing Darlene Love goes on sale on September 18.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Elvis Costello and Squeeze’s “Tempted”

    Not Elvis

    In 1981, Squeeze released the single “Tempted,” from the group’s fourth album, East Side Story. Although the song did not become a top-40 hit, the song became so popular you probably can sing along (“Tempted by the fruit of another. . .”). But did you know that Elvis Costello sings on the recording? Costello worked with Squeeze in the early 1980s, producing some of the band’s work, including co-producing “Tempted.” And, on the song, he sings a few lines.

    Glenn Tilbrook, Squeeze’s usual lead singer, wrote “Tempted” with the band’s guitarist Chris Difford. But keyboardist Paul Carrack — who was only with the band for one album before a solo career and work with Mike and the Mechanics — sang lead on “Tempted.”

    Tilbrook does sing a few lines on the second verse (starting around the 1:19 mark), as does Costello. Although a Rolling Stone article seems to imply that an “almost unrecognizable Elvis Costello” appears in the video, it appears he is not actually in the video. You hear Costello’s voice starting at the 1:24 mark (and elsewhere in backing vocals), but it looks like guitarist and songwriter Difford is moving his lips. Check it out for yourself.

    If you were not around in the 1980s, you may still know the song, which has been used in movies, video games, and commercials. Among other places, the song was used in a Burger King commercial. The band recorded a new version of the song for the film Reality Bites (1994), once again joined by Elvis Costello.

    After Carrack left the band, Tilbrook took over the lead vocals on “Tempted.” If you want to know more about what happened to the members of Squeeze in the decades after “Tempted,” check out this 2003 episode from VH1’s show, Bands Reunited below. For more information, check out the Squeeze website.

    What is your favorite Squeeze song? Do you know more about Costello’s work on “Tempted”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    RIP Jesse Winchester

    Singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester passed away today at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia. The 69-year-old artist had been suffering from esophageal cancer. Winchester, who had moved to Canada in 1967 in protest of the Vietnam War, had some chart success with his own recordings of his folk-country-blues sound. While he may not be remembered by a large number of the population, he is well-respected and admired by a number of talented artists. And many of them covered his songs. If you are not familiar with his work, check out these videos.

    Here is Winchester with a moving performance of his song “Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding” on season two (2009-2010) of Elvis Costello’s Spectacle show. That’s Neko Case, Sheryl Crow, and Ron Sexsmith on stage with Costello and Winchester. You can see near the end around the 3:12 mark where Case has tears in her eyes from Winchester’s touching song. Wow.

    Here is a young Winchester in 1977, singing with Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris.

    Finally, here is one of my favorite covers of a Jesse Winchester song. In this video, Buddy Miller sings Winchester’s “A Showman’s Life,” which appeared on Miller’s 2002 album Midnight and Lonesome. Winchester’s “A Showman’s Life” has been covered in excellent versions by the likes of George Strait and Gary Allan. But check out Miller’s version.

    Thanks for the music Mr. Winchester. RIP.

    What is your favorite Jesse Winchester song? Leave your two cents in the comments

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