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From the opening notes on the guitar “Fast Car” is instantly recognizable to tons of music fans of all ages. Tracy Chapman’s 1988 single became a near-instant hit, and it helped propel her self-titled debut album to the top of the Billboard 200 chart. The song has been covered by countless singers over the years, and it’s widely regarded as a classic. In 2023, Luke Combs brought the song back into the public consciousness with his hit cover of the tune.
Luke won two CMA Awards for his cover, which made Tracy the first Black woman to win the CMA award for Song of the Year. Tracy and the country star are reportedly gearing up to duet the song at the 2024 Grammy Awards. Ahead of the Grammys, find out more about the original song.
Who Is the Original Singer of “Fast Car?”
As mentioned above, Tracy Chapman was the original singer-songwriter to perform “Fast Car.” The song was released on April 6, 1988, as the lead single from the singer’s self-titled debut album, which was released the day before. While the debut album was a modest success, Tracy skyrocketed to fame over the summer, when she performed at Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday tribute in July of that year. Stevie Wonder had been scheduled to perform, but pulled out last minute (reportedly due to a keyboard issue). With Stevie off the bill, Tracy was brought back out to play two more songs, and one of them was “Fast Car,” which helped expose the song to many more fans, per People.
Did Tracy Chapman Win a Grammy for “Fast Car?”
With “Fast Car” being a hit, Tracy received tons of accolades for the song. She was nominated for six Grammys in 1989. “Fast Car” was up for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, and she won in the final category. She was also up for Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Folk Album for her self-titled record, which she won the latter of. She also won Best New Artist.
Why Did Luke Combs Cover “Fast Car?”
Luke Combs dropped his cover on April 18, 2023. After scoring tons of country hits with his own songs, his cover of “Fast Car” was a huge success. Luke revealed that he had a strong childhood connection with the song, which he performed mostly faithfully to the original. “When I was 5 years old, my dad and I would be in his truck, and he would always play music for me. He had a Tracy Chapman cassette tape, and ‘Fast Car’ is one of the first songs I remember,” he told People in December 2023. “I’ve always been a huge fan of it and think of my dad and our time together when I hear it.”
The “Beautiful Crazy” singer also explained that he was happy to expose the song to new fans who may not have known the original. “It opened up new doors for me that I had never had opened before, but I’m honestly just glad the song moved back in the spotlight and got introduced to a new audience that may have never heard it before,” he said. “It’s one of those songs that should be around forever, so I’m thankful it got a new life.”
Did Luke Combs Get Permission to Sing “Fast Car?”
Luke has explained that he didn’t reach out to Tracy directly to get permission for his cover of “Fast Car,” but due to music licensing, he didn’t “have to seek approval,” as he explained to YouTuber Grady Smith, via Today. There was a bit of controversy, because the singer hadn’t directly asked Tracy for permission, but the singer later praised his cover.
In a rare interview, Tracy congratulated Luke on his success with the song while speaking to Billboard. “I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honored to be there,” she told the outlet. “I’m happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.’”
Tracy Chapman & Luke Combs’ “Fast Car” Duet
While Luke’s cover of “Fast Car” has become a fixture of his setlists, Tracy has been very sparing with her performances in recent years. Still, with the song’s success, it’s been reported that she will sing a duet of the song with Luke at the 2024 Grammy Awards on Sunday, February 4, according to Variety.