Tracy Chapman Makes a Spectacular Comeback at the Grammys with “Fast Car” Duet

Tracy Chapman, a celebrated artist who took a step back from the limelight, marked a significant return to the Grammy stage on Sunday. Chapman, renowned for her influential career spanning eight albums from 1988 to 2008, kicked off with her breakthrough self-titled album, featuring hits like “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution,” “Baby Can I Hold You,” and the iconic “Fast Car.” Her debut earned her the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1989, with “Fast Car” receiving nominations for Record and Song of the Year.

Despite the enduring popularity of “Fast Car,” receiving dance covers and a notable sampling by Nicki Minaj, Luke Combs, a country star, brought the song back into the spotlight with a faithful cover that became a hit in the past year. At the Grammys in Los Angeles, Chapman and Combs performed a duet of the track, their first-ever joint rendition. Chapman began the performance with the song’s distinctive riff on an acoustic guitar, trading verses with Combs before uniting on the chorus. The audience, including Taylor Swift, stood and sang along, culminating in a standing ovation as Combs bowed to Chapman at the song’s conclusion.

Combs’s version of “Fast Car” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 as a single from his 2023 album, “Gettin’ Old.” Although the cover was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Solo Performance (won by Chris Stapleton’s “White Horse”), it surprisingly missed out on a Record of the Year nomination. Tracy Chapman, who had limited public appearances since her last tour in 2009, joined late-night shows sporadically. Notably, she covered “Stand by Me” for David Letterman’s retirement from the “Late Show” in 2015 and performed “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution” on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” ahead of the 2020 election.

Combs’s faithful rendition of Chapman’s working-class anthem, delivered with genuine sincerity, has transcended eras, earning Chapman the Song of the Year award at the Country Music Awards in November, making her the first Black songwriter to achieve this distinction. Chapman, expressing her gratitude in a statement, apologized for missing the awards ceremony and acknowledged the newfound recognition of “Fast Car” after 35 years since its debut. Combs, in his C.M.A.s acceptance speech, hailed “Fast Car” as one of the best songs of all time, emphasizing his recording’s homage to a song that held immense personal significance throughout his life.

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