Tracy Chapman Biography

Tracy took the world by storm with the first three songs of her debut album

Biography and Guitar Lessons

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Tracy Chapman original recordings and music video

Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman is an American singer-songwriter, best known for her singles Fast Car, Talkin’ ’bout A Revolution and Baby Can I Hold You from her self-entitled titled debut album Tracy Chapman.

Coming from the coffee shop scene in Massachusetts, Tracy not only sold multi-platinum and won three Grammy awards for her debut. She also changed music history and paved the way for other acts with more indie sounds and political lyrics.

Following Tracy Chapman, popular acts were now more honest. Grunge trio Nirvana, punk by Green Day and political metal hip hop by Rage Against The Machine became popular, rather than the spandex led 80s scene.

Tracy Chapman started a revolution

The original recording of Talking About A Revolution, or Talkin’ ’bout A Revolution as the album sleeve says, opened up the self-entitled Tracy Chapman debut album. This album epitomized the busking female singer-songwriter.

Two tracks later, fans were sold. Tracy Chapman was the new favorite singer-songwriter.

Teenage girls flocked around this record as an alternative to the hair metal scene and found something that spoke to them about their struggles, not about how they were “bitches” as the heavy metal and rap/hip-hop community would often suggest.

Following the success of the world-famous debut, Tracy Chapman has shared studios and stages with many famous artists.

On Tracy’s list of collaborations, you can find B.B King, Eric Clapton, Pavarotti, Buddy Guy, Ziggy Marley, and Dave Matthews.

In 1997, Irish Boyzone had a huge hit with Baby Can I Hold You which brought Tracy back into the charts with the same song, a decade apart. Boyzone attracted another generation of teenage girls to Tracy Chapman who saw a new revival.

Did Tracy Chapman’s debut album have the three strongest songs, as track 1, 2 and 3 ever on a debut? It’s definitely a good contender!

Tracy’s fast car drove the acoustic guitar back into the charts

Fast Car is a single from the hugely successful self-entitled debut album Tracy Chapman ’88.

Following a performance at Nelson Mandela’s televised 70th Birthday Party, Fast Car reached number #5 in the U.S and #6 in the UK.

As well as worldwide success in sales, the album Tracy Chapman was nominated for three Grammy awards, taking home Best Female Pop Performance for Fast Car.

The lyrics of Fast Car might be some of the finest of the 80s, possibly even comparable to Bob Dylan‘s work.

Within the lyrics, Tracy told the story of the impossible task of getting somewhere in a modern poor America that seemed to have no other possibilities other than getting a job at the grocery store and watching your partner fall to drug or alcohol abuse.

The final twist of the song simply moves from “we gotta make a decision” to “you gotta make a decision, leave tonight or live and die this way”.

As this might seem like the only solution, the song delivered a bitter feeling that no matter what, there was no way out.

This type of lyrical content, paired with the feeling of hope in Talking About A Revolution and the slightly more romantic Baby Can I Hold You provided, in my opinion, the strongest opening three tracks of any album in the 80s.

As all three songs stood strong on their own, together they told the bitter tale of a modern America clearly stating that if you had no money, you were a no one.

After a decade of outrageous hairspray stadium spandex rock, where sex drugs and rock n roll ruled, Tracy Chapman seemed to be the only singer-songwriter around speaking for and about ordinary people.

Only a few years later, the charts saw a huge turn away from hairspray and spandex, becoming more acoustic and real. Tracy Chapman’s debut album could be seen as a huge part of this turnaround.

Guitar Lessons

Fast Car – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In this first step, we learn how to play the two guitar parts that make up the original verse of Fast Car.

Complete this step and you’ll realize that just working out the original part is not enough if you want to learn how to actually write something like this.

Go to Fast Car step 1.

Fast Car – Step 2

In this step, we develop the two guitar verse parts into one guitar parts.

You get ten examples, learn these before you start developing your own variations.

Go to Fast Car step 2.

Fast Car – Step 3

Let’s look at three different strumming patterns you could use to play the chorus of Fast Car.

All are played with a pick as this sounds better. Of course, I show you how you could play it finger style as well.

Go to Fast Car step 3.

Fast Car – Step 4

It’s time to play the complete song. Use the ten verse ideas as you play along with me and the singer. Aim to vary your verse part as much as possible.

For the chorus, there’s a new idea available in TAB that will work along with my frenetic finger style strumming.

Go to Fast Car step 4.

Fast Car – Step 5

It’s time to take that Fast Car and keep on driving up and down the fret board.

Using a real song to learn about the fret board is always a better idea than playing a random exercise.

Go to Fast Car step 5.

Fast Car – Step 6

In this step, we find another 2nd guitar part that compliments the fingerstyle version.

This time, it is played using only string 1-3. Can you do this without reading the TAB?

Go to Fast Car step 6.

Fast Car – Step 7

In today’s step, we largely ignore the song’s melody. Instead, we improvise, using the chord shapes as a guide.

Aim to connect the fret board by playing all over it.

Go to Fast Car step 7.

Fast Car – Step 8

In this final step, take everything you’ve learned and come up with a 2nd guitar part that makes me and the singer sound better.

Your part need to sound as if it belongs to the performance. Simply put the video on repeat and come up with stuff. If it works, repeat it.

Go to Fast Car step 8.

Guitar Lessons

Talking About A Revolution – Step 1

In this lesson, we are going to strum new chords in the same way as you did when you played a G.

We simply apply the same pattern to Em, D, and Cadd9.

Go to Talking About A Revolution step 1.

Talking About A Revolution – Step 2

When you learn a song there is one thing you must always do and that is to break it down into smaller chunks.

In this lesson, we do just that.

Go to Talking About A Revolution step 2.

Talking About A Revolution – Step 3

Last time you played this song, you strummed the chords, today it’s time to pick them instead.

Practice all examples along with the loop and you’ll be able to play this song on your own soon.

Go to Talking About A Revolution step 3.

Talking About A Revolution – Step 4

In the last few lessons, we’ve slowly built up to playing Talking About A Revolution.

In this step, we play the entire song from beginning to end.

Go to Talking About A Revolution step 4.

Talking About A Revolution – Step 5

Today we’re going to learn how to change key, apply a capo and create a 2nd guitar part.

To change key from G to C means we’ll also learn new chords.

Go to Talking About A Revolution step 5.

Related Pages

Chords and Guitar Lessons

This song is played differently to how Tracy Chapman played it. Instead of finding the chords higher up the neck, my arrangement is playing it using open position chords.

Either way, perhaps the most difficult part is to move from a finger style verse to a strummed chorus.

Go to Fast Car Chords and guitar lessons.


Fast CarYou got a fast car, I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal, maybe together we can get somewhere
Any place is better, starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we’ll make something but me myself I got nothing to prove

Go to Fast Car lyrics.

Chords and Guitar Lessons

Talking About A Revolution ChordsThe easiest of the beginner songs have a meditative strumming pattern that anyone can learn. The simplicity of the part is one of the song’s main strengths.

Being about a revolution, the guitar parts no-frills approach make it sound as if it was made to be sung on a street corner, where all revolutions start.

Go to Talking About A Revolution chords and guitar lessons.


Talking About A RevolutionDon’t you know
They’re talkin’ bout a revolution
It sounds, like a whisper
Don’t you know

Go to Talking About A Revolution lyrics.

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