Tracy Chapman took the world by storm with the first three songs of her debut album
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I think the material is excellent. I’ve benefited so much. I’ve now begun to improvise with some confidence and have written songs that feel authentic. I can now develop musically in a broad and rich way. Your work has illuminated an exciting path forward.– Roger
Tracy Chapman is an American singer-songwriter, best known for her singles ‘Fast Car’, ‘Talking About A Revolution’ and ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ from her self-entitled titled debut album ‘Tracy Chapman’.
Coming from the coffee shop scene in Massachusetts, Tracy not only sold multi-platinum and won three Grammy awards for her debut, she also changed music history and paved the way for other acts with more indie sounds and political lyrics.
Following Tracy Chapman, popular acts were now more honest. Grunge trio Nirvana, punk by Green Day and political metal hip hop by Rage Against The Machine became popular, rather than the spandex led 80s scene.
Tracy Chapman started a revolution!
The original recording of ‘Talking About A Revolution’, or ‘Talkin’ ’bout A Revolution’ as the album sleeve says, opened up the self-entitled ‘Tracy Chapman’ debut album. This album epitomised the busking female singer-songwriter.
Two tracks later, fans were sold. Tracy Chapman was the new favourite singer – songwriter.
Teenage girls flocked around this record as an alternative to the hair metal scene and found something that spoke to them about their struggles, not about how they were ‘bitches’ as the heavy metal and rap/hip hop community would often suggest.
Following the success of the world famous debut, Tracy Chapman has shared studios and stages with many famous artists.
On Tracy’s list of collaborations, you can find B.B King, Eric Clapton, Pavarotti, Buddy Guy, Ziggy Marley and Dave Matthews.
In 1997, Irish Boyzone had a huge hit with ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ which brought Tracy back into the charts with the same song, a decade apart. Boyzone attracted another generation of teenage girls to Tracy Chapman who saw a new revival.
Did Tracy Chapman’s debut album have the three strongest songs as track 1, 2 and 3 ever on a debut? It’s definitely a good contender!
Tracy’s fast car drove the acoustic guitar back into the charts!
‘Fast Car‘ is a single from the hugely successful self-entitled debut album ‘Tracy Chapman’ (1988).
Following a performance at Nelson Mandela’s televised 70th Birthday Party, ‘Fast Car’ reached number #5 in the U.S and #6 in the UK.
As well as worldwide success in sales, the album ‘Tracy Chapman’ was nominated for three Grammy awards, taking home Best Female Pop Performance for ‘Fast Car’.
The lyrics of ‘Fast Car’ might be some of the finest of the 80s, possibly even comparable to Bob Dylan‘s work.
Within the lyrics, Tracy told the story of the impossible task of getting somewhere in a modern poor America that seemed to have no other possibilities other than getting a job at the grocery store and watching your partner fall to drug or alcohol abuse.
The final twist of the song simply moves from “we gotta make a decision” to “you gotta make a decision, leave tonight or live and die this way”.
As this might seem like the only solution, the song delivered a bitter feeling that no matter what, there was no way out.
This type of lyrical content, paired with the feeling of hope in ‘Talking About A Revolution’ and the slightly more romantic ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ provided, in my opinion, the strongest opening three tracks of any album in the 80s.
As all three songs stood strong on their own, together they told the bitter tale of a modern America clearly stating that if you had no money, you were a no one.
After a decade of outrageous hair spray stadium spandex rock, where sex drugs and rock n roll ruled, Tracy Chapman seemed to be the only singer-songwriter around speaking for and about ‘ordinary’ people.
Only a few years later, the charts saw a huge turn away from hair spray and spandex, becoming more acoustic and real. Tracy Chapman’s debut album could be seen as a huge part of this turnaround.