Musician Tracy Chapman during a 2014 press event.

Tracy Chapman Makes Country Music History

Tracy Chapman’s song “Fast Car” has won the CMA award for Song of the Year, decades after the song’s initial release. It marks the first time a Black person has ever won the award.

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Tracy Chapman’s self-titled album debuted in 1988. The legendary album included the songs “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution,” “Baby Can I Hold You,” and “Fast Car.” This album is one of my earliest music memories. I was only about 4 years old when the album came out, and I’ve been listening to it my entire life since then. Growing up low-income in an impoverished neighborhood, “Fast Car” had a special place in my heart. Chapman’s unique voice over a simple melody and powerful words is a stunning combination.

This year, country singer Luke Combs covered Chapman’s “Fast Car,” bringing renewed attention and celebration to the song. I don’t think anyone can improve upon the perfection of Chapman’s original version, but it is nice that her work has a vast new audience through Combs’ cover. “Fast Car” took over the country music charts. The song is about being stuck in the cycle of poverty and wanting something better for yourself as you grow up. But what avenues are open to you with a lack of money and guidance? Sometimes it feels like driving in a fast car will solve all your problems.

We need more diversity in songwriting

At the Country Music Awards, Chapman’s song won both Single of the Year and Song of the Year. In the CMA’s 56-year-long history, it is the first time a Black woman won the Song of the Year award, although there have been more well-known Black country artists in the last few years. Darius Rucker went from alternative rock success to country music star. Even Lil’ Nas X had a huge crossover hit with “Old Town Road” when he collaborated with Billy Ray Cyrus. However, the overall inclusivity of country music is lacking. There have always been Black artists in the country music industry, but most of the time they don’t get the attention they deserve.

The success of “Fast Car” speaks to the need for more inclusion in country music. A Black woman wrote the song years ago and it still speaks to people. The country music industry has long been known for conservative leanings when it comes to views on women, people of color, and the queer community. The combined success of Chapman and Combs shows how inclusivity could revitalize and strengthen country music.

(featured image: Trisha Leeper/WireImage)

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D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.