In 1989, folk singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman performed her popular song “Fast Car” at the Grammy Awards. The track was a massive hit at the time—it would eventually go Platinum multiple times over—and netted her nominations for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year and a win for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the ceremony.

In 2024, folk singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman performed her popular song “Fast Car” at the Grammy Awards. The track was massive hit at the time—a 2023 cover of the song by country star Luke Combs has already gone Platinum multiple times over—and netted Combs a nomination for Best Country Solo Performance at the ceremony.

The headline above isn’t meant to detract from what Combs has achieved with his cover but rather to highlight the outsized influence of this classic song and its enigmatic writer.

Until Sunday night, Chapman, who has rarely performed live in over a decade, had remained relatively distanced from the renewed wave of “Fast Car” hysteria brought on by Combs’ largely true-to-the-original rendition, included on his 2023 LP, Gettin’ Old. After Combs’ “Fast Car” single hit #1 on the Country Airplay Chart in July 2023, Chapman issued a short statement to Billboard: “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.’”

In November, “Fast Car” was one of the biggest winners at country music’s biggest night, the CMA Awards, where Luke Combs won Record of the Year honors for his cover. The cover was so successful, in fact, that Tracy Chapman received the 2023 Song of the Year CMA Award as its writer despite having written it in 1988. Chapman did not attend the CMA Awards ceremony in Nashville, opting instead to send a statement that was largely the same as her first: “I’m sorry I couldn’t join you all tonight. It’s truly an honor for my song to be newly recognized after 35 years of its debut. Thank you to the CMAs and a special thanks to Luke and all of the fans of ‘Fast Car.’”

Related: Tracy Chapman Wins 2023 CMA Song Of The Year Award For 1988’s “Fast Car” [Videos]

Meanwhile, Combs has been effusive in his praise for Chapman and her song. In a May 2023 Billboard article, Combs’ manager, Chris Kappy, explained that “Fast Car” had been a staple of Luke’s live shows for several years and that fans had been clamoring for a studio version. “The demand from our fans has been rabid for ‘Fast Car’ since he first released a snippet of it more than six years ago,” Kappy said. “We also felt that it would help draw non-country fans into the genre and experience the wonder that is country music.”

Combs opted not to tweak Chapman’s original version in any significant way, even keeping one particular gendered lyric female. Kappy added that “[Neither] Luke, nor I, have spoken directly to Tracy. This is her song and we were going to live within any parameters she had for her song. We are just happy we were able to release it and see the response of fans enjoying it.”

On Sunday at the 66th annual Grammys, the elusive Tracy Chapman sent Arena into hysterics when she took the stage alongside Luke Combs to perform “Fast Car” as a duet. The surprise appearance marked her first live performance in more than a decade. In 2024, just as in 1989, she was spellbinding. Here’s to Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs and “Fast Car”, a truly timeless treasure.

Below, watch Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs perform “Fast Car” at the 2024 Grammys, view an interview clip in which Combs talks about his longtime love for the song, and read Combs’ appreciation posts about the performance.

Luke Combs Talks “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman – Grammy Awards 2024


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