Writer(s): Tracy Chapman (see lyrics here)
Released: April 6, 1988
First Charted: May 7, 1988
Peak: 6 US, 4 CB, 8 RR, 7 AC, 19 AR, 5 UK, 11 CN, 4 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 1.2 UK
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 163.6 video, 328.0 streaming
Awards: (Click on award for more details).
About the Song:
“Tracy Chapman was a hardened veteran of Boston coffeehouse gigs (she once got a demo-tape rejection letter suggesting she tune her guitar) when a classmate at Tufts University told his music-publisher dad to check her out. Soon after, she made her 1988 debut, featuring this haunting meditation on escape.” RS Chris Gerard of Metro Weekly describes the song as “a grittily realistic story of a working poor woman trying to escape the cycle of poverty.” WK Critic Dave Marsh called it “an optimistic folk-rock narrative.” WK Chapman said “It’s not really about a car at all…basically it’s about a relationship that doesn’t work out because it’s starting from the wrong place.” SF
Chapman was relatively unknown when she was booked as one of the acts for the Nelson Mandela 70th birthday concert at Wembley Stadium. Her appearance at the June 11, 1988 event served as a catalyst for her career breakthrough. She performed a few songs in the afternoon and thought she was done for the day, but was called back when Stevie Wonder’s performance was delayed. She performed “Fast Car” in front of a huge prime time audience and the song subsequently raced up the charts. SF
In 2015, British record producer Jonas Blue released a dance version featuring singer Dakota. It reached #2 on the UK charts and hit #1 in Australia, giving the remake greater chart success than the original in those countries. Blue said Chapman’s song was a favorite of his mother’s. WK Among other artists to perform the song: R.E.M., Matchbox 20, and Kelly Clarkson and Chris Daughtry in a duet. BC
Resources and Related Links:
First posted 11/14/2019; last updated 7/14/2021.