Tracy Chapman: Music Activist

Tracy Chapman was a revolutionary black woman who used her music to express social and political discontent and promote activism, especially for black women. Her undeniable musical talent is just a small portion of what ultimately makes her arguably one of the most successful and highly praised singer-songwriters of our time.


Tracy was born in a humble neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio on March 30th, 1964 where she first fell in love with music, playing guitar and writing songs and poetry. She thrived academically and ultimately received a scholarship to Tufts University where she studied African Studies and Anthropology. It was there that she became immersed in folk and rock music by joining an African Drum ensemble as well as writing and performing songs locally.


She networks her way to David Kershenbaum, a notable producer with whom she records her debut album for Elektra Records. The late 80s brought Tracy great success. She performed for Nelson Mandela and topped charts in Britain and the US as well as performing touring with Bruce Springsteen and other notable performers.

After taking some time off, Tracy makes her way back to the top of the charts, earning a Grammy for her single “Give Me One Reason”. Tracy’s profound influence on folk music continued for decades and is still evident to this day. She has never avoided making social commentary and her activism is evident in her music especially as it relates to racism, sexism, and classism.

Tracy Chapman’s success has also been acknowledged by ample awards including Grammys for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Best Contemporary Folk Recording, Best Rock Song, and Best New Artist. 

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