Black Folk(s): Do You Drive a Fast Car?

Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman is an American singer-songwriter who rised to fame in the late 1980s and 1990s. She is a Cleveland, Ohio native who was born on the 30th of March in 1964. The musician began writing music and performing in Boston, and caught her big break in 1986 when she was introduced to Elektra Records. She soon reordered her debut album, Tracy Chapman.

Chapman's Contribution to Black Folk Music

Tracy Chapman’s mother bought her a ukulele at the age of three. She began playing the guitar at the age of eight. Early in her career she played at coffeehouses and clubs to get noticed. Her unique style was picked up by Elektra Records. They realized how impactful her voice and style would be to the Black Community. Back then, one of the only well-known Black female folk musician was Odetta. Chapman has said that one of her biggest influences comes from the country music that her mother played when she was little. The two artists that had the biggest influence on her were Charlie Pride and Dolly Parton. One can just listen to these two artists and realize why she decided to pull from their music for her inspiration.

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What is 'Fast Car' about?

In the 1988 hit single from her debut self-titled album, Chapman tells a story of a working poor woman who is trying to escape her cycle of poverty. The reason this song took off is not only because of the catchy melody and chorus, but because it resonated with men and women alike. She was singing about something people could relate to. In the interview linked below, you will hear where her inspiration for her music comes from. She also speaks about her rise to fame and her opinions on social media attention. 

Social Activism

Human Rights

LGBTQ+ Rights

  • Performed at the 40th anniversary of the universal Declaration of Human Rights with Amnesty International 
  • Raised money for South Africa’s Anti-Apartheid movement and seven children’s charities at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute
  • Performed on behalf of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation 

Thesis Statement: Tracy Chapman is a modern activist and musician who contributed to the popularity of folk music.

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