Tracy took the world by storm with the first three songs of her debut album!
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 political lyrics.
Following Tracy Chapman, popular acts were now more honest. Grunge trio Nirvana 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 everyone’s 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 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 later. 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!
A 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 #5 in the U.S and #6 in the UK charts.
As well as worldwide success in sales, the album 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 should be seen as a huge part of this turnaround.
Fast Car – Chords & Guitar Lessons
This song is played differently to how Tracy Chapman played it. Instead of finding the chords higher up the neck, I use open position chords.
Perhaps the most difficult part is to move from a finger style verse to a strummed chorus.
Fast Car – Lyrics
You 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.
Talking About A Revolution – Chords & Guitar Lessons
The 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.
Talking About A Revolution – Lyrics
Don’t you know, they’re talkin’ bout a revolution,
it sounds, like a whisper.
Don’t you know, they’re talkin’ about a revolution,
it sounds, like a whisper.