day in brighton

I haven’t heard a song by Tracy Chapman for probably 20 years. After her performance at the Nelson Mandela 70th Tribute Concert in 1988 she became a huge star in East Germany and then I loved her. I had forgotten about her – until today when a street musician in Brighton played her song “Fast Car”. I stopped and listened to the lyrics which I didn’t understand 20 years ago not only for lacking language skills and strangely, they were so close to me: You got a fast car / And we go cruising to entertain ourselves / You still ain’t got a job / And I work in a market as a checkout girl / I know things will get better / You’ll find work and I’ll get promoted / We’ll move out of the shelter / Buy a big house and live in the suburbs / You got a fast car / And I got a job that pays all our bills / You stay out drinking late at the bar / See more of your friends than you do of your kids / I’d always hoped for better / Thought maybe together you and me would find it / I got no plans I ain’t going nowhere / So take your fast car and keep on driving.

2 thoughts on “day in brighton

    • Tracy Chapman exploded onto the scene in 1988 with her debut sligne Fast Cars. I was working in radio at the time, and recall when my Elektra rep told me she was going to send me something she knew I would love (she had a pretty good take on my personal taste). The CD sligne of Fast Car arrived, and it hit me like a sucker punch. The devastating lyric about social class and poverty entrapment was unlike anything on the radio at the time, and I knew it was something special. I am still proud to say that the station I worked for at the time was one of the very first to add the sligne to our playlist, and I had a platinum album of Tracy Chapman’s debut in my office when the album hit number one. Tracy Chapman is one of those fantastic moments in popular music; when an artist emerges fully formed with a debut that is prescient and fearless. Chapman had both a husky voice and a strong sense of melody, and yet the social voice she invested into her songs stormed over the average easy-listening pop. Her vocal assault of Behind The Wall is stark and haunting, echoing the violence of the song’s lyric. Talking About A Revolution went straight for a lyrical jugular, there was no passive resistance here. There was also a core of tenderness to be found here as well. Baby Can I Hold You was sentimental enough that Neil Diamond once recorded it. If Not Now is a plea to a lover to commit. And as a simple plea for peace amid the contradictions, Why is hard to beat. ( Why are the missiles called peace-keepers when they’re aimed to kill? ) Chapman also exudes confidence for the CD’s 11 songs, enough that her notorious shyness is something you’d never guess at. Tracy Chapman re-zoned the playing field in 1988 and won Chapman a best new artist Grammy. It remains her best recording (even though all her albums have fine moments, this is the CD that every song is top-notch). The full digital recording was one of the first from the early days of the CD and still sounds incredible. All the way around, a classic album.

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