Watch this powerful, raw early performance of Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' from 1988

18 February 2022, 10:13

“And I got a feeling that I belong, I got a feeling that I could be someone."
“And I got a feeling that I belong, I got a feeling that I could be someone.". Picture: ASCAP/YouTube

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

'Fast Car' is widely considered as one of the greatest songs ever written.

After its initial release on 6th April 1988, it virtually made soulful folk-pop singer Tracy Chapman an overnight sensation.

It saw her win the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and was nominated for a further two, whilst reaching a chart high of No.6 in the US and No.4 in the UK.

Even though it didn't actually hit the top spot on either side of the Atlantic, the song's enduring influence has been recognised to this day.

The likes of Sam Smith, Luke Combs, Justin Bieber, and Kelly Clarkson have all cited the track as a major influence on their careers, with said artists also covering 'Fast Car' throughout the years.

Looking back at one of Chapman's earliest performances of her signature song, its timeless quality is indisputable.

Performing at the Oakland Coliseum Arena in 1988 as part of an Amnesty International benefit concert, she would only be there for a relatively short five-song set.

But despite only playing a handful of songs, it has since become considered one of her all-time great performances.

It takes serious conviction and courage to stand in front of thousands of people, bearing your soul with no gimmicks to hide behind.

Tracy Chapman enters the pitch-black stage, lit only by one beam of light, holding nothing but her acoustic guitar.

And she captivates the crowd by playing just the first few chords of 'Fast Car'.

Sombre but sturdy, Chapman delves into the song's lyrics and recounts them as though they were her own story that she's bearing to the masses.

It's powerful, it's raw, and it explains how the singer-songwriter amassed a legion of lifelong fans in such a short period of time.

'Fast Car' has been covered by the likes of Sam Smith, Luke Combs, Justin Bieber, and Kelly Clarkson over the years.
'Fast Car' has been covered by the likes of Sam Smith, Luke Combs, Justin Bieber, and Kelly Clarkson over the years. Picture: Frans Schellekens/Redferns/Getty Images

The earnestness and rich quality of her live vocal outshine even the studio recording, a testament to Chapman's prodigious talent.

There's a radiant hopefulness to 'Fast Car', even though the deeply emotional lyrics are centred around a hard-luck story of somebody that can't see any light in the darkness.

The song's content and themes have resonated with other artists and fans alike - despite the character being stuck in a cycle of poverty, they believe they belong to be somewhere better than where they find themselves in.

“And I got a feeling that I belong, I got a feeling that I could be someone" she sings with pure optimism.

Tracy Chapman was capable of captivating thousands without any gimmicks. (Photo by Clayton Call/Redferns)
Tracy Chapman was capable of captivating thousands without any gimmicks. (Photo by Clayton Call/Redferns). Picture: Getty

It's the song's hope that has seen it rejuvenated a number of times in the years since its release.

After Michael Collings performed 'Fast Car' on Britain's Got Talent in 2011, it re-entered the UK charts at No.4.

Bettering even Chapman's original chart position, Jonas Blue put a tropical house spin on the track which saw it reach No.2 in 2015, bringing the sentiment of the song to an entirely new audience.

It has since achieved triple-platinum status here on British shores.

Though Tracy Chapman may have released a total of eight studio albums, and written other superb songs such as 'Talkin' Bout A Revolution' and 'Baby Can I Hold You' - the latter of which was covered by Ronan Keating - it's 'Fast Car' that still brings tears to people's eyes across the globe.

A timeless song, from a timeless performer.