How Tracy Chapman became an overnight sensation

Publish Date
Wednesday, 21 February 2024, 1:43PM

‘Fast Car’ singer Tracy Chapman became an overnight sensation at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert in 1988. Her success came as a result of Stevie Wonder missing the hard disk for his Synclavier synthesiser. Wonder barely made it on the stage before realising this piece of equipment was missing. Once he realised this, he decided not to do the performance, leaving an opening for his set time.

Tracy Chapman performed a set earlier in the concert and agreed to fill the 25-minute spot, originally reserved for Stevie Wonder. Taking to the stage she had the audience in awe of her, and her music.

This concert was a turning point for this singer-songwriter with her album sales jumping from 250,000 to over 2 million in the 2 weeks post-concert. 

Chapman then went on to win a Grammy in 1989 for ‘Fast Car’, taking home the award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. 

The award-winning song lead the charts again in 2023, this time as a country track. Luke Combs’ cover of ‘Fast Car’ became a number-one single on the Billboard Hot Country Songs. This went on to win Chapman the Country Music Association (CMA) Award for Song of the Year. Chapman was the first Black songwriter to ever win this award at the 57th annual CMA’s.  

At this year's Grammy’s, Tracy Chapman reminded everyone just how talented she is, with Combs and her duet of ‘Fast Car’. Singing Combs’ Country cover of the hit song, Chapman was overwhelmed with the wave of appreciation she received following the performance.  

The audience was as mesmerised at this year's Grammy’s performance as they were at Wembley Stadium 35 years ago. 

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you