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Tracy Chapman First Black Woman To Write Top US Country Song

5 July 2023 | 11:48 am | Mallory Arbour

“I think it’s such a great song that it deserves to be heard by a whole generation of people that haven’t heard it before."

Tracy Chapman & Luke Combs

Tracy Chapman & Luke Combs (Tracy Chapman via Facebook and Luke Combs by Jeremy Cowart)

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Tracy Chapman has become the first black woman to have a sole writing credit on a number one country song thanks to Luke Combs’ cover of Fast Car topping Billboard’s Country Airplay Chart.

Rolling Stone reports that Chapman is only the fourth Black woman to have a writing credit of any kind on a top country song, while Billboard notes Chapman is only the second Black songwriter to have a sole writing credit on a number on Country Airplay since it was launched in 1990.

Chapman released the song in April 1988 as the lead single from her self-titled debut album. Her appearance on the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute at London’s Wembley Stadium helped the song become a top ten hit in the United States, reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In Australia, Chapman's Fast Car peaked at #4 on the ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart. Additionally, it received three Grammy Award nominations: ‘Record of the Year’, ‘Song of the Year’, and ‘Best Female Pop Vocal Performance’, the latter of which it won.

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Meanwhile, Combs version was sent to both Top 40 and Hot Adult Contemporary radio, marking the first time that he has had a song sent to contemporary hit radio. The song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, higher than Chapman’s original version. It also impacted Australian mainstream radio, having peaked at #3 on the ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart so far.

“[It’s] my first favourite song probably ever. I remember listening to that song with my dad in his truck when I was probably four years old,” Combs said in a press release. “He had a cassette, a tape of it, and we had this old brown camper top F-150.”

“We rode around that thing, and he had a tape cassette player in there, and I have the original cassette – my dad brought it to me a couple of years ago… I have the one, and I have it in my shop,” he continued. “The only music I have in my shop is a cassette player. I love to go to antique stores, and just you can get a bunch of cassette tapes for 50 cents, and some of the best records of all time are on cassette.”

Combs added, “I love [Fast Car] so much, and I think it’s such a great song that it deserves to be heard by a whole generation of people that haven’t heard it before, and so to be able to, like, have an opportunity to do that, especially with a song that’s meant so much to me and my love of music from as far back as I can remember is super unique.”

During a recent interview with Grady Smith, Combs revealed Chapman hasn’t been in contact.

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