I think it’s cool that Luke Combs had a hand in putting Tracy Chapman and her 35-year-old song back into the spotlight.
Their Grammy performance is here.
Some have taken issue with the fact that a white country singer has “cashed in” on a song by a black female artist. But this is not a Pat Boone situation, where record labels would take a popular R&B song by a black artist and use white singers to create a sanitized pop version that was more palatable to predominantly white audiences. The most egregious example is Pat’s soulless cover of Tutti Frutti:
In this case, the cover came from the heart:
“My dad would play me that Tracy Chapman self-titled album, I just loved that song. So, when I went into the studio to record…I was like, what if we just did this cover of ‘Fast Car,’ just ’cause I want to do it?”
He clearly adores both the song and the songwriter:
“Tracy, I want to send my sincerest thanks to you for allowing me to be a part of your moment. Thank you for the impact you have had on my musical journey, and the musical journeys of countless other singers, songwriters, musicians, and fans alike,” the post continued. “I hope you felt how much you mean to the world that night. We were all in awe of you up there and I was just the guy lucky enough to have the best seat in the house.”Luke Combs on his Instagram
It’s not like Tracy Chapman didn’t get recognition for the song when she released it – she won the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance back in ’89 for “Fast Car” (and she won Best New Artist and Best Contemporary Folk Album for her debut album on which it appears, and “Fast Car” also was nominated for record and song of the year, while her album received a nomination for album of the year). She’s been nominated for 13 Grammys overall and has won 4.
Not to mention the fact that Tracy Chapman wrote “Fast Car” and owns the publishing rights, so her royalty checks have been getting a lot fatter of late.
Billboard estimates that Combs’ version has generated about $500,000 in publishing royalties globally from its March 17 debut through June 8. Chapman alone is pocketing a sizable portion of that total.Source: this Billboard article from June of last year… the Grammys bump will take those totals way higher
It’s not about the money, though. Luke Combs has introduced a great song to a whole new generation. And if his audience tends to skew less hipster and more hip waders, so be it. He’s building bridges, and we probably could use a lot more of that today.
In fact, Luke’s cover of “Fast Car” won a CMA Award for Song of the Year – an award that goes to the songwriter, making Tracy Chapman the first black woman to win a CMA. So he’s helping break down barriers too.
“I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honored to be there,. I’m happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.’ ”Tracy Chapman in Billboard last July
“All of this was done to honor the amazing woman, songwriter, and artist that she is, The entire opportunity for us to even be on a stage with Tracy Chapman is what this was all about.”Luke Combs’ manager Chris Kappy in this Entertainment Weekly article about the how the Grammy performance came together.
Millions of new fans have found and embraced a great song by a stellar songwriter. Let’s give Luke a hand, because that’s cool!
P.S. My favorite Tracy Chapman cover is still this one: