Singer and songwriter Tracy Chapman performs live during a concert in the Tempodrom on November 1, 2005 in Berlin, Germany. The concert was part of her “Where You Live” tour that will end in Paris on December 14, 2005.
We at Jalopnik love brilliant sad songs, and it doesn’t get better or more emotionally devastating than Tracy Chapman’s 1988 hit “Fast Car.” It’s such a great song, that it is still winning Chapman awards to this day, 35 years after its release.
Chapman won song of the year at the Country Music Awards Wednesday night, thanks to a cover by singer Luke Combs burning up the charts three-and-half decades after the song’s release. Chapman is the first Black songwriter to ever win the award, the New York Times reports:
“I just recorded it because I love this song so much,” he said. “It’s meant so much to me throughout my entire life.”
Combs is not wrong. The sparse, soulful tale of trying to stay optimistic in the face of crushing poverty and catching a fleeting moment of blind joy while riding in a fast car is an instantly relatable, and poignant, commentary on the American and human condition. I honestly get a little ticked off when I hear it playing over a PA system in a supermarket or used as hold music, as if I don’t need to be emotionally prepared for Chapman’s gut-wrenching lyrics or flawless delivery. “Fast Car” has lost none of its power and can leave me in tears if it catches me on the right (or wrong) day.
I mean, who hasn’t broken the speed limit once or twice while thinking “I should just keep driving. I could be somebody if I could just get out of here.” Of course, it’s not as if “Fast Car” is just now getting any recognition, and the Times notes:
The original version of the song reached No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1988. It won Chapman three Grammy Award nominations in 1989, including for song of the year. She won for best female pop vocalist.
It’s a song that has also done very well for Combs, hitting No. 1 on the country music Billboard charts and spending 19 weeks at No. 2.
In case you haven’t had enough feels before your morning coffee today, here’s the original in all its glory:
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