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Recap: Tracy Chapman's 1988 breakthrough single, "Fast Car," made her one of the most prominent singers of her era and helped her take home three Grammy Awards the following year, including Best New Artist. The story of "Fast Car," one of the most captivating singles of that year, is told by a young woman who quits school to help her alcoholic father and fantasizes about escaping everything in the car of her similarly destitute companion.
The song "Fast Car" went on to become a smash hit, but what was the occasion that took the song to a well-deserved renown place in music history?
On June 11, 1988, Stevie Wonder was supposed to perform at Wembley Stadium as a part of a tribute for Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday, in front of a huge 80,000-person crowd. However, he discovered that the hard disks containing the recorded music required for his set were missing just as he was about to enter the stage. No such thing as cloud storage in 1988 simply meant there was no way to recover the required recordings in a few clicks as would likely happen today.
Wonder abruptly departed the stage, upset and in tears. Tracy Chapman, who had already played a set, was hurried back onstage to fill the gap. She calmed the restless audience as they gazed in awe at her performance. Watch below...
Chapman's performance of 'Fast Car' and 'Across the Lines' was met with rave reviews by the 80,000 spectators in attendance, and the 600 million viewers who tuned in from around the world.
Her debut record sold an additional 1.75 million copies in just next two weeks. Furthermore, the song Fast Car reached No. 6 in the US and No. 4 in the UK and garnered nominations for two Grammys and an MTV Video Music Award. Thanks to its impact, Chapman also won the Best Contemporary Folk Album, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Grammys, and Best New Artist.
Chapman hasn't released a new song since 2008, but despite this, "Fast Car" has grown to become one of the most popular and well-covered songs of the last decade.
It has been performed live by Khalid, Sam Smith, and Justin Bieber. Remade by Reggae acts and EDM. 2020 saw the debut of two updated versions: Luke Combs posted an acoustic rendition online and Black Pumas published a studio-recorded version as their new single.