Music / Tracy Chapman

"You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so we can fly away?
We gotta make a decision
We leave tonight or live and die this way"

Tracy Chapman (born March 30, 1964) is an American singer/songwriter who first rose to fame in 1988 with the hit "Fast Car" from her self-titled debut album; the album also earned her the Best New Artist Grammy that year. Chapman was at first regarded as something of an oddity, in that she was a black woman who played guitar and wrote songs that were best classified as "alternative folk", but her strong, melodic voice, socially conscious lyrics, and solid musical talent made people sit up and take notice.

She largely avoided the "Best New Artist" curse, as her biggest hit, the bluesy "Give Me One Reason" reached #3 on the Billboard chart in 1997 and won the Grammy for Best Rock Song, but she has more or less remained a cult artist, with a small but extremely devoted fanbase.

Chapman is also known for her activism, supporting such causes as Amnesty International, Make Poverty History, and has long supported the city school system in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.

Related Tropes

  • A Cappella: "Behind the Wall".
  • Bookends: "Fast Car" begins with the narrator taking care of her alcoholic father, her mother having skipped out years before. By the end of the song, that's exactly what the narrator does with her deadbeat boyfriend.
  • Downer Ending: The narrator of "Fast Car" has, by the end, realized that her boyfriend and the father of her children is a deadbeat who will never help her or the kids, and she kicks him to the curb.
  • Dreadlock Rasta: For the 'rebelling against authority' reason.
  • Genre Roulette: Sometimes its folk, sometimes its pop, sometimes its blues, but it's always good.
  • Grass Is Greener: "Fast Car" is basically about running away from your problems in the hope for a better life when in fact, the grass really isn't greener on the other side.
  • Performance Video: "Give Me One Reason", which is filmed as if it was in a blues club.
  • Protest Song: A lot of 'em. "Talkin' Bout A Revolution", "Across The Lines" and "America" among others. "Fast Car" also counts, albeit in a Springsteen-esque tragic ballad style.
  • Self-Titled Album: Her 1988 debut, Tracy Chapman.
  • Singer Songwriter
  • Three Chords and the Truth: The genesis of her style, particularly evident on Tracy Chapman.
  • Twelve Bar Blues: Is a big fan of the blues, and got her biggest hit with the classic blues "Give Me One Reason".