“Fast Car” revisited

Tracy Chapman made a rare appearance on the Grammys last night to join Luke Combs in a performance of Chapman’s “Fast Car.” She hasn’t performed in public for some 15 years. Below is a video clip of the moment via X reposted by Tracy herself [see update at bottom].

Tracy commented on the fortune of the song after last night’s performance.

This past July I wrote about Combs’s cover of Chapman’s song. I thought it might be worth revisiting this morning. This is a slightly tweaked version of what I wrote:

Country artist Luke Combs has returned Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” to the radio. It was an unforgettable hit of ginormous proportions in 1988 and Combs’s respectful cover follows Chapman’s original right down to the female sex of the narrator. Combs’s cover has reached No. 2 in the Billboard Hot 100. When Combs’s cover reached number 1 in country airplay, Billboard asked Chapman for a comment. She responded about as you might expect: “I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honored to be there. I’m happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.’” Among other things, Chapman is sane.

Not so much one Emily Yahr of the Washington Post. Gareth Roberts undertakes an anatomy of Yahr’s madness in the Spiked column “The woke erasure of Tracy Chapman.” Roberts takes a loving look at “Fast Car” and finds Yahr representative of the Great Age of Stupid in which we live. I think the displacement of homosexuals by transsexuals that Roberts decries is part of the Age, but that is beside the point.

“Fast Car” is a striking song. Roberts pays tribute to Chapman’s original. Combs’s respectful cover brings the song to a new audience 35 years down the line and it may be more timely now than it was in 1988. There is so much adversity, pain, and disappointment condensed into the song along with the striving for a better life against the odds. There is, in other words, something with which everyone can identify in one way or another.

Today comes word of Luke Combs’s response to Tracy Chapman’s comments on his cover (via People): “Luke Combs Thanks ‘Supernatural Songwriter’ Tracy Chapman for Supporting His Cover of ‘Fast Car.'” People quotes Combs:

The Grammy-nominated country star explained that he’s been performing “Fast Car” at his concerts “for six-plus years, and everyone — I mean everyone — across all these stadiums relates to this song and sings along.”

“That’s the gift of a supernatural song writer. The success of my cover is unreal and I think it’s so cool that Tracy is getting recognized and has reached new milestones,” added Combs. “I love that she is out there feeling all the love and that she gave me a shout-out! Thank you, Tracy!”

I should like to think that Chapman and Combs might be able to defeat the Great Age of Stupid, but that is to dream the impossible dream.

Here is a video of Combs covering the song live with the singalong effect that Combs mentioned to People.

Here is the Tracy Chapman original.

UPDATE: The video of the Chapman/Combs live Emmy performance in the tweet below has been yanked at the insistence of the Emmy masters. It had been tweeted out on Tracy’s own account. I have substituted the GIF permitted by the Emmy masters, also reposted by Chapman. It’s a sad postscript to a happy story.

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