How missing disks helped Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car become a mega hit in 1988

We’re not saying that Tracy Chapman’s iconic song Fast Car wouldn’t have been a smash hit without this missing technology, but it surely helped accelerate that success. This week we saw the Grammys taking place and during the pageantry and awards, Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs performed a stirring rendition of Fast Car.

You can find that performance here. A cover of the song by Combs was nominated for Best Country Solo Performance which ultimately went to Chris Stapleton’s White Horse.

Originally released on 6th April 1988 in the US, Fast Car was the lead single from Chapman’s self-titled debut album. The song only arrived in the UK later that year, one week before the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute Concert at Wembley on 11th June 1988 according to the Financial Times.

Despite having already played a set that day, Chapman was tasked with performing once again after Stevie Wonder reportedly misplaced some disks (some say hard drives, others say floppy disks) that contained music he needed to do his set. Unable to perform, Chapman who could perform with an acoustic guitar was tasked with filling the Stevie Wonder-sized hole on the set.

And so she did.

Performing to 80 000 people who were likely all looking forward to Stevie Wonder must have been intimidating but, like the lyrics of the song, Chapman rose to the occasion. She also performed Across the Lines during this set, which is as pertinent today as it was when it was released.

After this performance, Fast Car reached number five on the UK charts and number six in the US. The song would also win Chapman the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1989. The song is one of those rare pieces of music that is immediately recognisable by most people, no matter their age or where they are from.

More recently Chapman won the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year Award.

The renewed attention on Fast Car has sparked countless conversations about the song and it even topped the iTunes Charts this week.

As we said, Stevie Wonder misplacing his disks likely wasn’t the sole reason Fast Car became the hit we know today, the song is just plain good. However, we’re sure that performing to 80 000 people and knocking the performance out of the park, helped accelerate the success.

[Image – PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay]


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