Tracy Chapman and Fast Car - Keep on drivin'

Luke Combs’ version of “Fast Car,” which reached Number Two on the Hot 100 this summer and became one of the unlikely blockbuster hits in any genre, took home the first two CMAs of the evening, for Song and Single of the year.

Chapman’s Song of the Year triumph marks a long overdue milestone: In the 56 previous years, there has never been a Black songwriter — male or female — to win the Song of the Year award before Chapman took home this year’s trophy.

This is so weird to me because Luke Combs’ version is just a straight remake of the song. Nothing is different except for the fact he’s singing it instead of Chapman. This isn’t like I Will Always Love You where Whitney and Dolly’s versions really are their own things.

It’s also not really a country song? More blues or folk?

Tracey Chapman opened for U2 at Oakland Coliseum 30+ years ago. I’ve never been much of a concert goer, and really not a big music person, but I was completely captivated by her, having never heard of before walking into the stadium.
I bought her first few album before she dropped out of sight.

I think it is a folk song, but at overlap between country, folk, and blues, and rock is pretty large. Ballads are about telling a great story, and she does it very well.

I mean… still not a country song? I’m super happy for Tracey Chapman because she deserves recognition for being awesome. Seems like more of a recognition of somebody singing one of her songs with a southern accent than anything. Where’s the country music with a Long Island accent?

Oh I agree. It’s literally just a new dude singing the same song from '88.

Waaaaaay back when I was in college I was commuting from home. And I had to get up really damn early each morning. Like 5 AM. And it’s winterish, so it’s just hella dark in Seattle at that time.

I had a clock radio that was my alarm. Set for one of the local stations.

And at 5AM, it started playing Fast Car. This is like 94 or 95, so years after it was a big hit and I obviously knew the song. But it was absolutely haunting listening to it in the dark. But the kicker was, after it ended, it played again! And I really soaked it in.

It’s a memory that just seared into me.

As Regina Spektor said, “We listened to it twice, 'cause the DJ was asleep”

For some reason I find the Luke Combs version to be extremely irritating. Every time I hear it, I wish I was listening to the original instead, so I kind of resent it.

That reminds me of when I was driving through northern Wisconsin in '91 or so and we could only get a single radio station. It was playing R.E.M.'s It’s the End of the World on repeat. For hours. We got a speeding ticket.

Well, songs don’t really get better than Fast Car, so sure, give Tracy Chapman awards for it anytime!

I’m out of touch with the country music world, but I heard about this cover song on a podcast over the summer.

Country Music’s Race Problem Into It: A Vulture Podcast with Sam Sanders ‎Into It: A Vulture Podcast with Sam Sanders: Country Music’s Race Problem on Apple Podcasts


He would need explicit permission from Chapman to make changes. In his version, he even keeps the lyric about himself working as a checkout girl, which made me laugh. For covers, it’s something called compulsory licensing, where basically Chapman can’t say no, and Combs has to pay her all the royalties.

Chapman doesn’t let anyone use her work. She won a big settlement from Niki Minaj who sampled Chapman’s work without permission.

Thanks for putting both of these up. I loved Fast Car when it first came out which was right about the same time I got sober. I don’t really listen to much Country but I’m glad he made it popular again. I guess I still like the original best.

So weird that after 30+ years the song wins an award for a worse version of the original.

So in short: “lived black experience wins country music award, but only after being co-opted by white guy.” Sounds about right.

This. 100%

I’m glad a new generation of folks are discovering Tracy Chapman thanks to this, but it’s kind of nutty,

Wait, I’m confused. Did he get permission or not to cover this song? The compulsory licensing thing above is messing me up.

Also, it sucks.

These days, I’m convinced that Country Music is just 3 decade old Pop music.