Musical Reflections: Tracy Chapman | Fast Car

I was 8-years-old when I owned my very first album. Up until that point, Mom would purchase singles for me.

The first single I ever owned was the Inspector Gadget theme song sampled joint by Bad Boys. And yes, it was a vinyl record. I’m sure Mom still has it. She’s a pack rat.

But the very first full length album that I not only owned but listened to from start to finish was Tracy Chapman’s eponymous debut.

The young man who drove the church van would always talk to me about this album that he could not stop listening to. One Sunday, he surprised me with a copy he recorded for me. After church, I ran straight to my tape recorder to give it a listen.

Even at the tender age of 8, I could recognize good music when I heard it. I instantly connected with Tracy Chapman, especially the popular single “Fast Car.” Backed by a gentle percussion and acoustic guitar arrangement, Chapman narrates a story of loss, hope and despair as her dreams for a better life never quite become a reality.

You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal 
Maybe together we can get somewhere

Anyplace is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we’ll make something
Me myself I’ve got nothing to prove

For some reason, the song resonated with me – and still does to this day. By far, one of my favorite songs of all time. The bells and whistles are at a minimum on this record. There are no ear-shattering high notes; no verbose riffs and runs; no catchy video. Just great songwriting matched with a heartfelt performance. That’s it.

In 1988, long before playing a guitar was hip and a surefire way to score cool points on American Idol, the pop-folk singer-songwriter strummed a tale of hardship into a top 10 hit in America and Europe, and a Grammy Award win for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (“Fast Car” was also nominated for record and song of the year). ¬†

Live Performance of “Fast Car”


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  1. Rogers

    This post made me feel REALLY old. Because back before her album came out I was working at the Out of Town News stand in Harvard Square and Tracy would often be busking in the alcove outside the Harvard Coop across the street. She was (and still is I'm betting) a gentle soul who blew us away every time she opened up her guitar case. When I first heard Talking 'Bout a Revolution on the

  2. Anonymous

    I can NOT think about Tracy Chapman without envisioning Kim Wayans doing her impression of Tracy on In Living Color…that is still one of my favorite TV moments EVER!



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