Luke Combs’ cover of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ is a huge success: is that a problem?

In 1988, Tracy Chapman released “Fast Car” as the lead single from her eponymous debut album. The song was very successful at the time, becoming a top-ten single and winning big awards, including a Grammy. Critics praised the song, the album and Chapman herself. Chapman and her music were considered, at the time, folk-rock. Over the years, “Fast Car” has had incredible longevity – it still feels fresh, it still feels modern and it’s still incredibly moving. Here’s Chapman’s album version & music video:

Over the years, different artists of all genres have covered “Fast Car,” and it’s especially popular for artists to cover live, in concert. Well, months ago, country star Luke Combs covered “Fast Car” and included it in his latest album, Gettin’ Old. Here’s Luke Combs’ cover:

Combs has also included the song in his concerts for a while, so his fans weren’t surprised when he finally put it on an album. Well, Combs has put out entirely different singles from the album, but country radio decided to just play the hell out of his “Fast Car” cover. It has become a runaway hit on country music radio, even climbing to #1 on the Billboard country charts. That makes Tracy Chapman the first Black woman to have written the #1 song on the country charts. Last week, Tracy Chapman even made a rare public comment, congratulating Luke: “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.’”

Well, some people aren’t so pleased. Some people are quite irritated that a white male country artist covered a song written by a Black woman. The Washington Post did a lengthy article about this, here’s an excerpt from that piece:

To quite a few people, [the success of Combs’ cover] is cause for yet another celebration in Combs’s whirlwind journey as the genre’s reigning megastar with 16 consecutive No. 1 hits. But it has also prompted a wave of complicated feelings among some listeners and in the Nashville music community. Although many are thrilled to see “Fast Car” back in the spotlight and a new generation discovering Chapman’s work, it’s clouded by the fact that, as a Black queer woman, Chapman, 59, would have almost zero chance of that achievement herself in country music.

The numbers are bleak: A recent study by data journalist Jan Diehm and musicologist Jada Watson reported that fewer than 0.5 percent of songs played on country radio in 2022 were by women of color and LGBTQ+ artists. Watson’s previous work shows that songs by women of color and LGBTQ+ artists were largely excluded from radio playlists for most of the two decades prior.

“On one hand, Luke Combs is an amazing artist, and it’s great to see that someone in country music is influenced by a Black queer woman — that’s really exciting,” said Holly G, founder of the Black Opry, an organization for Black country music singers and fans. “But at the same time, it’s hard to really lean into that excitement knowing that Tracy Chapman would not be celebrated in the industry without that kind of middleman being a White man.”

There has been a concerted effort from some in Nashville to promote inclusivity, particularly since the industry-wide reckoning after the killing of George Floyd in 2020. But despite some individual success stories, the systemic lack of diversity has persisted. Now that Chapman’s classic is on pace to become one of the biggest songs of Combs’s career, there are uneasy and complex emotional responses.

[From WaPo]

While I acknowledge that everything being said here is worthy of discussion, for what it’s worth: Tracy Chapman never considered herself a country artist and she never sought validation from the country music establishment. She was doing her own thing in the rock/folk world and, as brilliant artists are wont to do, she created a masterpiece which defies genre, a song which still sounds fresh and relevant when sung by a white country bro 35 years after it was originally written. What’s more, “Fast Car” was absolutely acknowledged in its own time? It was literally a hit song, it won a Grammy, Chapman performed her music in front of huge, sold-out concerts. Country music absolutely has a huge race and racism problem, but I’m just not sure this is the right case study. Also: Tracy Chapman is the sole songwriter for “Fast Car,” so she probably appreciates the royalties from Luke’s cover.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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94 Responses to “Luke Combs’ cover of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ is a huge success: is that a problem?”

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  1. SarahLee says:

    The only person who has say on whether this is ok is Tracy Chapman. She wrote the song. She allowed the cover. She seems happy with it. It’s a great cover (and I’m not a country fan). It’s not like Toby Keith covered it. That, I would guess Tracy would have an issue with.

    • FHMom says:

      Agreed. And let’s hope she’s making a ton of cash from it, too.

    • Megan says:

      I think this raises serious questions about gatekeeping in country music. Remember when country music refused to acknowledge Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road. Tracy Chapman’s approval is good, but it doesn’t address the underlying issue.

      • osito says:

        Yep, exactly what @Megan said.

        Tracy has every right to grant access to her catalogue to whomever she wants and be happy with the artistic and financial rewards. And nothing against this artist either — I haven’t heard his version of the song, but I’m sure it’s great.

        But that doesn’t mean that uncomfortable feelings and rational critiques aren’t naturally going to come up for the rest of us as observers. I’m a black, female country fan, whose tastes lean toward Garth, Dwight, and the Chicks, but I’ve also embraced newer artists like Yola, Kacey, and Maren. The country space is still really exclusive and occasionally openly racist. It’s not a comfortable place to exist as a non-white fan. The snubs, the odd behavior around someone like Beyoncé collaborating with the Chicks, the lack of demonstrable presence at awards shows and celebrations of artists, the hit mic moments where we hear the n-word come from massively popular artists who are never held accountable (because the vast majority of their fans see nothing wrong), make it uncomfortable.

        These are important things to address if they’re ever to be healed. These conversations need to happen regardless of who owns the music.

    • Andie says:

      YES! Enough said.

  2. Tracy has said she doesn’t have a problem with it so I think let it be and yes I bet she is happy with the money it is bringing her because it is out there again. Good for Tracy.

  3. Kittenmom says:

    My first thought was – I’m thrilled that she’s getting the residuals!

    • Dss says:

      That’s what I thought. Ms. Chapman will be making bank from his remake. Excellent for her!

    • ariel says:

      I looked it up- she is the sole songwriter and she owns the publishing. And there is an “estimate” online [via Billboard] that the Combs covered has – so far- brought in $500,000 to her.

      This makes me happy.
      Also, his version is good too.

    • tealily says:

      This. Having your song covered is a sign of respect. She’s an amazing songwriter who deserves all her due, and this is an acknowledgement of that. Do you think Bob Dylan’s feelings are hurt every time someone has a hit with one of his songs? No. It just ads to his reputation and to his bank account.

  4. yellowy says:

    I still haven’t recovered from Boyzone’s soulless rendition of Baby Can I Hold You.

    • Nubia says:

      Boyzone and Westfile should not have covered a number of songs. Their cersions were so sanitized. Completely soul less.

  5. K says:

    This song is a classic written by a genius. TC is one of those musicians that lives in my heart. Fast Car is magic and anyone who hears it is touched by it. Let me be clear. All the things brought up are truth and facts. I didn’t even want to hear a country cover but I was in a friend’s car and she had it on. He did a good job. It’s also apparent that he loves and appreciates the song. This is how great music works. I love Tracy Chapman and so do other people.

    • orangeowl says:

      Yes to everything you said. I didn’t want to listen either and I just did…it brought tears to my eyes. I think it’s a lovely tribute to her genius. Of course her version is better but I’d like to think some of his fans might seek out her version and discover music they might not otherwise have.

      • Somebody Nobody says:

        Me too. It a beautiful, touching, haunting genius song and the cover is lovely.

    • The Old Chick says:

      Yes to what you said here. She’s a genius and genius transcends genre. I haven’t played the cover, and I know nothing about this guy. I adore TC and her music and still listen to fast car. I remember her Grammy speech when she won for it and I literally cried. She was my hero, that album spoke to me so deeply, even thoughi come from a completely different world. Genius. . and I love she’s banking money and being her cool self.

      • Bettyrose says:

        Folk, R&B, and country have a lot of common roots. Pop versions of those genres have diverged quite a bit but the fundamentals are rooted in poor southern/northern migration experiences.

  6. Josephine says:

    I’ve enjoyed Luke’s version and I really like that he paid highest homage to a black, queer woman and is making her money despite the fact that a good deal of his fan base must be the Bud Light cancellation crowd. But I don’t blame others for acknowledging that she probably would not have hit with this song had she redone it in a more country style.

  7. NN says:

    I prefer Tracy’s vocals and tone.
    This guys version just lacks…soul, idk. I just know I feel nothing when i listen to it where as with Tracy I feel all the emotions. And she just has a very unique voice no one can mimic. This guy sounds like every other new country musician.

    • Zapp Brannigan says:

      I agree, the cover is fine as covers often are but with Tracy singing I feel all that sadness, desperation and grief of being stuck in a life that you keep trying to improve for yourself but there is no relief from. TC singing her own words just hits differently.

    • H says:

      I agree. I saw Tracy in concert when this album first came out. Her voice is utterly unique, and while I’m sure Luke is a wonderful country artist, I’m just not seeing there could be a comparison. I still listen to Tracy’s album, her songwriting skills are amazing.

      Although I am very happy Tracy is getting paid for this and in the end, Tracy had to give permission for Luke to use the song. So, if she’s okay with it, I’m okay with it.

      Last time I had looked on her website she had gone on to get her masters degree?

    • Carrie says:

      So agree with you. The shade, light, colour and emotion are all missing from his cover.

    • HoofRat says:

      I can’t say I’d recognize Luke Combs’ voice if I happened to hear it on the radio. Tracy Chapman, though, has a voice with the resonance and depth of a pipe organ. I saw her in concert when she toured with Bob Dylan after Live Aid, and I will never forget her final a cappella phrase on Fast Car; her voice literally filled the entire arena. I sincerely hope that some of the people who listen to Combs’s version will also seek out the original, because it’s unforgettable.

    • shanaynay says:

      @NN says:

      You hit the nail on the head. 100% agree with you.

  8. CrazyHeCallsMe says:

    Sounds like some folks latching on to the remake of Tracy’s song and trying to make it about something else. It isn’t. As long as Tracy is okay with Luke Combs singing her song and she’s getting paid from it, everyone else needs to have a seat about it. Also I read somewhere that so far Tracy has received over $500,000 in royalties from Luke’s remake.

    • Mia4s says:

      Yeah it feels like people are trying to use this to discuss a legitimate issue of diversity when…it just doesn’t fit. Tracy is not nor ever expressed a desire to be a country music artist. I don’t think Lebron James is upset he will never be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

      She is being properly credited and VERY well compensated. End of story.

      • Ciotog says:

        There are other talented Black women who are trying to make it in country and finding it really difficult. I think that’s what the commentary is about, not about Tracy herself.

  9. Fuzzy Crocodile says:

    I live in Charlotte and just learned who Luke Combs is… so find it interesting he also popped up here.

    I don’t like country. I prefer the original. But like others said, Tracy Chapman is OK with it. Also seems like she’s getting credit and recognition for it, which I’ve heard songs and didn’t know they were covers until years later.

  10. Roo says:

    He did a beautiful cover of it, and it seems to be a beautiful homage to her and the song. I love the original and I love this version.

    And I think it speaks so much about this song that two artists with different backgrounds and experiences both love it.

  11. Jais says:

    Get that royalty check! It’s a great song that’s transcendental. I’m still going to listen to Tracy’s version. I don’t know Luke Combs or listen to country radio but he clearly loves the song too. Now more people love the song. It doesn’t sound like he’s not trying to credit her. And she’s okay with it. Dustin at Pajiba also wrote a great piece about this:

  12. Southern Fried says:

    Love that you posted both versions since I would never have heard Luke’s otherwise. They’re both good, I’ll add his to my road playlist even though I’ve got Tracy’s already. Why not sing along twice?

    • BeanieBean says:

      I couldn’t make all the way through Luke’s version, Tracy’s had me tearing up! Hard to drive with tears in your eyes! Be careful out there!

  13. Eurydice says:

    Ok, I listened to his cover – it’s a male voice, but the story is still about a woman and the words are still Tracy’s. It seems faithful and respectful and if she’s happy, that’s great.

    As for the WaPo article and “White middleman” – they’ve been the gatekeepers. Nobody gets in unless they open the doors – inclusion can’t happen without them.

    • MF says:

      Yeah, I think the issue of “white middlemen” is the real problem, so some people are misdirecting their anger at Luke Combs when really this is an industry-wide issue.

      • Sarah says:

        Yeah, it’s a really great choice to keep the song from the POV of a woman even sung by a man. At first I remembered the song as being gender neutral, but both versions sing “checkout girl”.

  14. Brassy Rebel says:

    I love Tracy Chapman. But, yes, country music has a huge problem with race and, well, anything out of white southerners’ comfort zone (Dolly Parton excepted). The lack of diversity in the music makes it all sound the same. The genre would do well to diversify, and this is a good start.

  15. teehee says:

    But… one persons success does not detract from the other— specifically because the success is a few decades apart.

    I would understand if Tracy’s song was released and 2 months later covered by a white man.

    But 35 years? She was and still is a star, everyone knows her song and her legacy in music via her hits, so there is no damage done, imo.

    The fact that a white guy is in country music is a separate topic.
    As far as black and queer in country I think Nas does an excellent job there lol

    Tracy was never a country musician… so he isnt stealing her foray into the genre so much as he is introducing country listeners to HER genre.

  16. Ocho says:

    On the country music radio show I listen to based out of Scotland (“Another Country”), they play Tracy all the time. Their show has an expansive and inclusive view of country music, including soul, rock, blues, folk etc and Tracy fits right in. Plus, she’s making money off Luke’s version and getting more fans.

    • Fortuona says:

      She as classed as Americana over here

      I listen to Absolute Country now they scrapped the 1 Country Channel last year

  17. Sue Denim says:

    Brought me to tears listening to this again after all these years, that’s what great art is. I remember her back in the day performing in Harvard Sq w just her guitar and that voice of hers, electrifying, literally blocked traffic w the crowds that formed. I think her statement was beautiful too. A class act…

    • Sue Denim says:

      I like the original much better too. But…maybe by bringing this to a crossover audience, new listeners will imagine at some level that their lives aren’t so different from TC’s, that we all want the same things — respect, dignity, freedom, security, love, etc. And maybe see that the racial and other hateful divisions are a divide and conquer strategy to serve the 1% and get people voting against their own interests. But it’s time to come together. That’s also what great art can do. Or at least we can dream…

  18. NessaB says:

    What bothers me is, he added NOTHING to the cover, it’s literally almost identical musically, lyrically, the only difference is his beautiful tenor vocal instead of Tracy’s rich alto. He even says he works in the market as a checkout girl! I don’t know Luke Combs’ pronouns but, I wish he had brought something new to the material. That said, I would LOVE to see a duet and more Tracy Chapman is good Tracy Chapman.

    • SummerMoomin says:

      I like that he left “checkout girl” in there, it preserves some of the song’s queerness, even as it becomes a mainstream country hit.

    • Amanda says:

      I think the fact he left is as is shows his reverence for the material and adds to the layers that this was done out of pure appreciation and love for the song. He let HER words and music stand as created, rather than Bro-ing it up. That’s beautiful.

  19. Mireille says:

    If Tracy is OK with it, fine. But for me as a fan of her music, I LOVE LOVE THAT SONG. It is PERFECT as is with Tracy’s performance. No need for remake, tribute, etc. from any other performer. Leave that song alone.

    • Debbie says:

      This is not a criticism of your post, believe me. It’s just something added for context. As I understand it, songwriters and musicians work hard and if they’re lucky enough to get a hit or recognition for their work, they appreciate that people are listening to them — it also pays their wages too. It’s great that Tracy Chapman’s song was well received when it first came out and that many people still remember it, but as a songwriter I’m sure that TC appreciates even more that others over the years have gone on to sing her song in performances. That, as some have pointed out, re-introduces the song to younger audiences and makes the song more financially successful for her. So, when someone (of whatever genre, but especially a different one) comes along and releases it again to a large audience, that makes the song a bigger success, financially and critically. That’s how songs become standards and stand the test of time. So, it’s okay to love TC’s version but those out there who begrudge that fact anyone else can appreciate the song may be a little shortsighted.

  20. Kirsten says:

    I don’t really care for his cover, but I don’t think there’s a problem with it. Tracy Chapman is okay with it, and her version has been popular for decades — I think this will only increase the popularity of her original as well.

  21. TikiChica says:

    You know how big this song was in the day? It was massive, I remember! And now it’s reaching a whole new generation. And the artist herself has given her blessing. This is awesome for Tracy Chapman, and I hope she’s laughing all the way to the bank.
    Also, what an album that was. “talkin’ ’bout a revolution”, “baby can I hold you”, “Behind the wall” were all big hits too. I had the pleasure of seeing her live in 1988 in Buenos Aires, my first ever gig, at the Human Rights Now! tour with Peter Gabriel and Sting, and she was mesmerizing.

    • H says:

      I saw Tracy, Sting, Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen on that tour too. But I saw them in Philadelphia. I’ve been a fan of Tracy Chapman ever since.

      • Sarah says:

        I’m jelly — I can’t think of three performers I’d more want to see than Tracy Chapman, Sting, and Peter Gabriel!!!

    • Rapunzel says:

      This song was big enough to be parodied on In Living Color. It’s a classic. Luke Combs won’t ruin that.

    • Jais says:

      The Promise by Tracy is one of my all time faves as well.

  22. Veronica S. says:

    It’s a respectful cover, IMO. It doesn’t have quite the emotional intensity of the original, but it’s decent. And it’s probably going to introduce lots of people to the original by accident. Tracy Chapman was very much a kind of niche/folksy sound that was a bit of a surprise hit in the 90s, so it’s not a total shock it never made it’s way on to country radio into mainstream crossover.

    This being said, whether the message of the song is lost on the country music masses is another issue. It’s a very timely song for what’s going on in this country, but I’ve seen a few articles say it’s about “success after much adversity.” And I was just like…no, that’s not the meaning at all lol. It’s quite the opposite. There’s no way to spin a song about cyclical urban poverty and the unreachable illusion of the American dream into something triumphant.

    • AnneL says:

      To be fair, a lot of country music is about similar themes. At least traditional country music. Over the past couple of decades, that genre has leaned more into a celebratory, nostalgic tone. But people used to joke about country songs that they were all along the lines of “I lost my truck and my job and my girl and now I’m drinking whiskey at the bar save me Jesus.”

      • Eurydice says:

        There’s also, prison, life sentences, hopeless poverty, dead lovers, drinking until you die, heroin addiction, children who’ve died of abuse, getting AIDS from a one-night stand, visiting a dead fiancé’s grave while wearing a wedding gown. It’s a gloomy, gloomy genre.

  23. Wilma says:

    I love that song and play it regularly (Tracy Chapman’s version). Haven’t heard this one, probably not going to, but I’m happy it’s out there as we need more working class people songs. I miss those days when there was a lot of music that resonated with growing up on the side of things where you had to work a lot harder to get not a lot, but there was music to strengthen your spirit and make you feel seen.

  24. lucy2 says:

    Tracy’s opinion is the one that matters, if she’s happy and being properly compensated, that’s what should matter.

  25. AnneL says:

    If Tracy doesn’t have a problem with it, then I don’t see why anyone should. He did a respectful cover. It doesn’t have the emotional resonance of her version, but it’s still quite good. She’s getting paid well for it. People who might not have known the song are now hearing it.

    I actually like that he didn’t change the pronouns in his version. It makes it seem like he’s doing a cover but not co-opting the song. It’s clear that this is her work, her story, and he’s just singing it. Maybe he just really likes the song and it’s meaningful to him, as it is/was to so many others.

    I’ve heard of him but I didn’t know he was so popular.

  26. Chantal says:

    While I’m happy that a new generation is learning of Tracy Chapman’s hit song. I do have mixed feelings. Not just bc of country music’s continued racism despite being influenced by blues music. It’s bc Fast Car became a hit on the pop charts yet she somehow became labelled as a folk rock artist bc of that one song. But most of her music wasn’t folk rock and I think pigeonholing her into that genre greatly hurt her career. I stopped paying attention to her after that designation bc that wasn’t my type of music although I liked Fast Car and I liked a couple of folk music artists like Suzanne Vega.

    So I reluctantly went to one of Tracy’s first outdoor concerts with a friend and the audience was predominantly white (like 95% which was very unusual to see at that time unless it was someone like Whitney Houston). It was a fantastic concert! I was pleasantly surprised, had so much fun and became a fan bc of it. Give Me One Reason is still one of my faves.
    She hadn’t come out of the closet yet but it definitely would have hurt her career at that time. Some songs were obviously R&B/R&B flavored rock and some just rock and we were all dancing along when she and her band played her up tempo jams. None of us cared that the other songs didn’t sound like Fast Car/folk music and we definitely sang along when she played it. Her sound and voice was really unique and she should have been a bigger crossover star. I think in today’s progressive environment, she would have been. But kudos to him and to her for the renewed interest and the royalties.

  27. CommentingBunny says:

    It’s a decent cover. Listening to it put a lump on my throat. But once was enough, when The original is right there, you know? I went back to the original and cried my eyes out.

    I hope it helps the youngs find Tracy Chapman’s music because it deserves to be heard.

  28. NotCathy says:

    If you want another lovely cover of this song, the Black Pumas did a version that was absolutely incredible.

    • Mario Ross says:

      I remember being a little jerk in my teen years (what’s new?) and talking out of my neck about how Garth Brooks (as both Brooks and in his Chris Gaines persona) “ruined” Billy Joel’s songs by covering them, and to be “fair” making the same points about Whitney making Dolly’s country song all about her. So much wrong with my immature thinking, but the first hint I was wrong, I got from Billy Joel and Dolly Parton’s comments themselves, which made it clear that:

      1. The most successful songs in history are the ones that become “standards,” covered and remade by all kinds of artists, reinvented, and rediscovered by new generations. And while not every song will become “Happy Birthday,” every remake is a tribute that brings a work of are a specific songwriter wrote closer to artistic immortality.
      2. When people hear your song, even decades later and are inspired to sing it, it validates the timelessness of the song and the effort the songwriters put into it. Songs are meant to be sung over and over again but most fade away because they feel dated and less relevant over time.
      3. Songwriters make most of the money in this industry. Not the performers, not the producers, who have to rely on specific things like album sales and concert revenue. When it plays on the radio, streams, is performed live, is sampled for commercials or put in a film/tv show, the songwriter or their heirs/assignees make nearly all the money, with the rest split up among all the other parties.

      The success of this song is validation and flowers for Tracy Chapman, proof of the brilliance of her talent and work, and is making her rich as hell (Dolly got such an infusion of cash from the WH remake of “I Will Always Love You” you wouldn’t believe, and Mariah could live off the revenues from replays and remakes of “All I Want for Christmas is You” alone).

      Decades later, I now see these things in a more mature and nuanced light. Artists, as a general rule, want their works to live on and inspire future generations. And unlike paintings, books, and photographs; songs and plays are meant, if they are lucky enough, to be performed and reimagined over time.

      Those things considered and, especially, since Ms. Chapman feels grateful, validated, celebrated, and respected, I’m going to follow her lead and be happy for all concerned. And since the perspective of a woman is still maintained in the remake, in a country remake by a MAN, I’m gonna actually celebrate this, too.

      • dose of reality says:

        So spot on! I could never say as well as you did, I agree with you completely!

  29. Mel says:

    I don’t understand why this has to be analyzed to death. This actually sounds like the first version. Good for Tracy and I’m sure she’s thrilled to get that residual money as the sole writer. I heard some kid audition for AI years ago and he did a slow version of You Belong with Me, it was better than Taylor’s version. Congrats to Tracy and Luke Combs , maybe they’ll do a duet at an awards show.

  30. Sarah says:

    The only problem I have with him singing this perfect song is that I doubt he (or any young man) would quit school to look after their drunk father. Or am I being reverse sexist?

    • Mario Ross says:

      I actually know a few guys who did just this (well, one was the child of an alcoholic; the other had a severely disabled father with few benefits) so I think it just depends on who they are and where. But you still see this and sons who barely balance school and taking care of their mom and siblings when a father has died or left in my part of the world. Plenty of daughters, too. It always feels like a tragedy when you see it.

      That said, I’m happy to say I see fewer dropouts, period, as a grown man than I did in the 90s. There are a lot more alternatives and interventions available today.

  31. Concern Fae says:

    When Trisha Yearwood was starting out there was a really good book written about the year her debut album came out and how her label and their publicity machine fought for her career to take off. What really struck me was how country music is it’s own industry, with a completely different pipeline for talent. One thing that really struck me was that Trisha had her own band that she’d been playing with for years. Didn’t matter. The same small group of studio musicians that played on everyone’s albums played on hers. No idea if that’s still the case.

    I think that’s what the Nashville people are reacting to. That women, POC, and LGBTQ are closed out of that network of commercially successful artists in Nashville if they write with this kind of honesty. It’s getting turned into this song shouldn’t have been covered, but the issue is far more complex. Nashville is very much a closed shop. 35 years and massive mainstream success is what it takes for a Black, queer woman to make it in Nashville.

    One last thing – has Chapman ever publicly talked about her sexuality? I remember there was bitter controversy over Alice Walker outing her by writing about their affair, which had been over for some years. I see Wikipedia says Chapman still hasn’t said anything. Another layer.

  32. canichangemyname says:

    I love Tracy Chapman, and I love this song. I thought the cover was pretty good, and at the end of the day, if she’s okay with it and she’s making money from it, I’m definitely here for that.
    Country music is obviously problematic, so the argument can be made from both sides. He took a song from a black queer woman and introduced it to a new audience – will that open their minds? Idk, probably not for a lot of them. Is it appropriation? I also don’t know – covers are done all the time and she’s getting the credit, we all know it’s her song, not his. But it shines a light on how there’s an audience that will love something if it’s done by a white dude, but not so much otherwise. But I’m from the South, I did grow up listening to country music, and I do love to see artists who shake things up and make it about the music and not the WHITE BOY ‘MURICA JESUS AND BABIES AND FARMS.
    It’s a conversation that’s valid, I’m here for it, but anything that raises up Tracy Chapman is something I love to see.
    Her version of Oh Holy Night is my very favorite Christmas song. LOVE her.

  33. Ameerah M says:

    While I get where the musicologist is coming from – and this is most definitely a larger conversation that needs to be had because cultural appropriation within music is still not as broadly discussed as it could be. I am going to respect how Tracey feels about it. It’s her music, her song, her work. If she is okay with it, then I am okay with it. She is final voice on that. And I hope she is receiving big fat royalty checks from it.

  34. PunkPrincessPhD says:

    Combs’ cover is fine, but it lacks TC’s rawness and vulnerability.

    I’m loving this live version by an Australian band called Vlossom (the entire Like a Version series is fabulous btw), which I think captures that delicate space between hope, desperation, resignation …

  35. Elsa says:

    There are a lot of terrible people in country and also a lot of wonderful progressive music and musicians. I’m from Texas and love country music. I was raised on it. Some great music is made by awful people such as Jason Aldean, an avid Trumper, and I have to choose not to listen to it. I don’t listen to country radio because I think they pander. I curate my own list which includes a good mix of old and new.

  36. ME says:

    I’m pretty sure you can go on YouTube or TikTok and see many normal folks singing this song. If Tracy has no issue with it, none of us should. It’s her song. It’s such a beautiful song and timeless. Plus she got paid ! Good for her.

  37. cel2495 says:

    Tracy is ok with this so I don’t think This needs to be a think piece. Tracy was never a country singer, her cover is doing amazing in a genre she was never in. She ( I hope) will get lots of $ from it as the only song writer.
    Let the woman make her $$!

  38. KansasGal says:

    I was 18 when that song came out. I am now dealing with the fact that it has been 35 years since I was 18. My heart can’t handle anything else right now.

  39. BeanieBean says:

    I don’t know how I missed this song back then, but I just listened to it via the link & what a beautiful heartbreaking song! Now I need to go back & listen to more Tracy Chapman.

  40. Jeannine says:

    I was amazed when I first heard it because it is a 1 to 1 cover of the song the includes “check out girl” in the lyrics. I heard Luke Combs comment on it. He has loved the song since he was a child and they had a cassette they wore out in their truck.

  41. Mrs. Smith says:

    Combs honors the song and Tracy with his rendition, so I’ll take it as a welcome opportunity to introduce Tracy and her music to new audiences, especially hardcore country music fans. Nashville and the country music business are fortresses of the old boys club and white supremacy. I’ve seen it up close and it is oppressive.

  42. Jewbitch says:

    I know exactly where I was the first time I heard this song. Such a great childhood memory. Riding around the back country (dirt) roads with my best friend, her mom and my mom. I was 11, we were in a navy blue Monte Carlo.
    I have it on shuffle, every time it comes on in my car, I turn it up.

    • SomeChick says:

      I love all these sense memory comments. I too remember turning it up in the car whenever it came on.

      this was before ipods so you had to either play tapes or get the luck of the draw on the radio! we had “car tapes” that were cassettes with a mix of music designed for driving and road trips. there was no shuffle so you had to actually program the set ahead of time. the art of the mixtape! almost like DJing your car but you had to plan ahead.

      I’ve been a big fan of Tracy since her first album. I just love her. a friend got to design a concert tshirt for her tour of that album! he listened to it nonstop for a few days and then created a visual design based on that. wish I’d gotten one! I hope this sparks off a Tracy revival and her music makes a comeback. her songs are absolutely as relevant as ever.

      I also wish this for Joan Armatrading. (’90s lezzie music fans unite!) <3

  43. HeyKay says:

    Royalties baby!
    Get all the money from the song you wrote.
    Fast Car is her most well known song, to me anyhow.
    No idea who Luke Combs is. Last country star I liked is Dwight Yoakum.
    But every time that song is played, $ to Traci.

    Every writer wants their music to continue on after them I think. If Traci is OK, me too.
    Btw, she looks terrific.

  44. Honey says:

    I love music. I don’t necessarily love every remake (Beyoncé – Before I Let Go 👀) but I do like it when there is crossover appeal. It opens people up to new content, sounds, experiences, artists, new ways of being & interacting with the world.

    People, I think of all ages, should know and recognize that the context for many, many, many things in America is race and racial animus. Music was not and has not been exempted from that—policing and the demarcation of genres, elevating some genres while definitely putting others down & dismissing those as dirk or unimportant art forms, who gets credit, who doesn’t, who gets paid, who gets paid less or not at all, who is the target audience, who isn’t & therefore who is seen or who isn’t, what gets appropriated & how is it appropriated (black artistry without black people, e.g.).

    Black people do listen to and like Country Western. A lot of older, now deceased blues men & women, have a CW tune or two in their catalogs. Why? How? People forget that most black people are from the south and still live in the south. But, us northerners can and do appreciate country western too. As a matter of fact, Charley Pride (African American) was a huge CW star & singer back in the day. His talent and his appeal wouldn’t allow the gatekeepers to completely shut the gate on him. And that’s ultimately who we are or should be talking about are the gatekeepers.

    So, I said all that to say this: I loved Fast Car & other Tracey Chapman songs when they first came out. I still love listening to them as well. I’m also happy that she likes the remake—independent of simply being paid for its cover, etc., but in loving that she loves it I do think there IS still room & a need to inform and to talk about the historic issues (micro/macro, depending on your POV) and current issues that are problematic for lots of people around race and gender especially when those things appear to be systemic and legacy issues.


    • SomeChick says:

      hear, hear! the problem is totally the gatekeepers. like when they decided Old Town Road – which is SO country – couldn’t be on the country charts (because it would have topped them for weeks and they couldn’t let a queer Black dude have that). at least the hypocrisy was fully apparent.

      country, blues, and bluegrass all have deep roots in African music as well as Irish folk. the distinction is artificial and obviously cultural (as opposed to musical).

      it’s cute that I’m getting ads for a $105 black and white stripe tshirt from Saks on this thread about systemic poverty and racism.

  45. Flower says:


    Especially when you consider the backdrop from which ‘fast car’ originates and one of it’s major performance being linked to Nelson Mandela’s release.

    Sorry but there would never bee any circumstances suitable for an artist like Luke Combs covering this.

    For me this is akin to that sh!t poster on twitter (sorry forgot her name) who has that AI picture of Trump and Martin Luther King Jnr walking hand in hand.

    This seems to be the next trick of white supremacy i.e. to co-opt things associated with civil rights and ascribing them to whiteness. It’s civil rights washing and exactly the reason they don’t want CRT taught in schools. In their deluded fantasies this is the version of the truth they want people to know.

  46. sherry says:

    I heard it for the first time today. I find his version a little mundane, but, then again, how would you improve on Tracy’s version?

  47. Tamra says:

    Music is designed to bring ALL people together, ENJOY!

  48. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for including this topic- it’s an interesting discussion to have. I do land on the side of if Tracy’s okay with it, then I am. I’m not even country music lover and I like this cover. I particularly like that he does not change the line to ‘boy’ and sings, “I work at the market as a check out girl.” *chef’s kiss*

  49. Lola says:

    When I first heard the song, what gave me the gut feeling it was an okay thing was he didn’t change the lyrics AT ALL. He sang “I work in the market as a checkout girl” he didn’t change a thing. It was a tribute, respect, love, it felt right.

  50. Peanut Butter says:

    This is one of the all-time great songs as far as I’m concerned. I’m not a country music fan and didn’t expect to enjoy Luke’s version. But I was pretty blown away by it. I think it’s a wonderful, elegantly understated treatment of her song, and I’m delighted he’s having such success with it. And I love that Tracy’s making bank on Nashville-fueled royalties. I appreciated her gracious response to Luke on the success they’re sharing with this fantastic song.

  51. Aries-Mira says:

    Tracy OK’d it, so what’s the big deal? Personally, I think his version is… OK. The way she sings it resonates with me, and it cannot be replicated by another artist.

  52. MinDee says:

    This song broke my heart 35 years ago, in a good way. Don’t argue over it; give it airplay and credit Tracy Chapman for an incredibly moving song. SHE deserves it.

  53. Mmmkay says:

    Also maybe some credit where it’s due: Garth brooks, Tim McGraw, The Chicks, willie Nelson, Dolly…. There are country music folks that are forging a path

  54. Eden75 says:

    It’s her song to let whomever she wishes record it. If she’s happy, that’s great.

    I am going to be one of the rare fish here, but his version makes my ears bleed. Granted, I despise country music with every fiber of my being, but I was willing to chance it for one of the greatest songs ever. No thanks, it’s not for me, but to each their own.