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.
- A Cappella: "Behind the Wall".
- Ambiguous Gender: Many cruel jokes about her refer to not knowing she was a woman when the observer first saw a picture of her or heard her music.
- 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 partner.
- Break-Up Song: "Fast Car" reveals itself to be one in the last verse.
- Domestic Abuse: The subject matter of "Behind the Wall". The violence itself is not described beyond "loud voices behind the wall," but it's bad enough that an ambulance comes to the scene after a horrible silence that chills the narrator's soul following the screaming one night, suggesting that the worst has happened.
- 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. Possibly more of a Bittersweet Ending, since the narrator seems to have escaped poverty (she says "I got a job that pays all our bills"), but her boyfriend isn't a good partner or parent.
- 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.
- Never Accepted in Her Hometown: Her fan base is, or at least was initially, mostly white. She has been disparaged by other black musicians, such as Chuck D, for her choice of genre.
- The One Who Made It Out: "Fast Car" uses this at least metaphorically if not literally in a narrative about escaping one's problems.
- Performance Video: "Give Me One Reason", which is filmed as if it was in a blues club.
- Police Are Useless: In "Behind The Wall", Tracy sings about how the police are useless when it comes to the horrible situation in the song — not only do they come late if they come at all, but they're disinclined to deal with domestic abuse situations.
- 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.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Mountain O' Things" is this to people who have a lot of money and fancy things but don't do anything with them.
- Self-Titled Album: Her 1988 debut, Tracy Chapman.
- Three Chords and the Truth: The genesis of her style, particularly evident on Tracy Chapman.
- 12-Bar Blues: Is a big fan of the blues, and got her biggest hit with the classic blues "Give Me One Reason".