Ethan Hawke channels the boyish croon of Chet Baker with an elegant cover of Guys and Dolls standard “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” which the jazz icon included on the 1956 reissue of his vocal debut LP, Chet Baker Sings. Hawke portrays the trumpeter in Robert Budreau’s upcoming Baker biopic, Born to Be Blue, and the actor’s version of “Before” is heard during the film’s climax.
“Our jazz composer David Braid created a unique arrangement of this Guys and Dolls songbook classic, which combines a vintage 1960s sound with hints of modernism,” Budreau tells Rolling Stone of the track. “This song is the perfect climax for the film because the lyrics explores an artist’s choice between love and music.”
While Hawke’s gentle delivery — employed over piano, acoustic bass and brushed drums — recalls the sweetness of Baker’s original, it never sounds like outright imitation. “Ethan’s vocal performance is brilliant because he doesn’t try to mimic Chet Baker,” Budreau continues. “Instead, he finds a bittersweet tenderness which captures the spirit of Baker’s enigmatic voice.”
“The original ‘I’ve Never Been In Love Before’ from the musical Guys and Dolls is a light and sweet reflection on newfound love, but in Born to Be Blue, the lyrics transform meaning entirely to become dark and ironic,” says pianist-composer David Braid, whose band accompanies Hawke on the track. “Ethan’s spellbinding performance of this song at the climax of the film effectively communicates the essence of Chet’s performance style as well as gives this 66-year-old song a new life with contemporary audiences.”
The Born to Be Blue Soundtrack, out March 18th via Rhino, is available for pre-order. The 14-track album features Braid’s ensemble re-interpreting staples from Baker’s catalog (including another track sung by Hawke, “My Funny Valentine”), along with original recordings from Charles Mingus and Odetta.
Born to Be Blue is out March 25th from IFC Films.