In 1988, Tracy Chapman released “Fast Car” as the lead single off her self-titled debut album. At the time, Chapman was still a little-known singer-songwriter playing at the bars and cafes around Tufts University. However, things changed when she appeared at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute at Wembley Stadium.
After Stevie Wonder could not perform at the event following a programming mishap, Chapman, who was unknown to many people back then, filled the gap – performing twice on the stage that day.
The appearance, without a doubt, shot Chapman to stardom. In fact, just a few days later, “Fast Car” ranked No. 6 on Billboard Hot 100 while peaking at No. 7 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart.
The song was also a hit in several other countries, such as Canada, Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands. It even reached No. 5 on the UK Singles chart.
However, the song’s success did not end there. “Fast Car” also earned nominations during the 1989 Grammy Award in the Song of the Year and Record of the Year categories while taking home the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance award.
Since then, “Fast Car” has been covered by many popular artists such as Justin Bieber and Luke Combs.
Meaning Behind The Song
“Fast Car” is an ode about two young lovers yearning for a new life – which unfortunately did not work out as they hoped “because it’s starting from the wrong place,” Tracy Chapman said.
She wrote the acoustic ballad late one evening in 1986 in an effort to capture “the world as I saw it when I was growing up in Cleveland, Ohio,” she revealed.
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She pondered that she might have been thinking about her parents when writing the song, going through the first time her mother and father met when they were young and their burning desire to begin a new life together.
Indeed, Tracy Chapman proves she got stories to tell. You can listen to “Fast Car” by playing the video below.