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Fast Car: Who Did it Better, Tracy Chapman or Luke Combs?

Updated: Mar 22

Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" is one of those songs that hits you deep down. You know, the lyrics about wanting to break free, the gentle guitar strumming—it's like a mix of feeling hopeless but also hopeful for something better. It's the kind of song that can make you tear up one minute and then have you belting out the chorus at the top of your lungs the next.

Fast Car Tracy Chapman Luke Combs

Since it dropped in 1988 on Chapman's first folk album, "Fast Car" has been a go-to cover for singers. And lately, one cover in particular has taken everyone by surprise.

Back in March, country star Luke Combs released his album "Gettin' Old," which included his own rendition of "Fast Car." People went nuts for it! The track blew up on streaming platforms, went viral on TikTok, and even started outpacing Combs's own single, "Love You Anyway." It was like the song had a life of its own. Last week, it hit No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart and reached No. 3 on the all-genre Hot 100 chart.

Now, for many folks, this is just another reason to celebrate Luke Combs's success—he's already got 16 consecutive No. 1 hits under his belt. But for others, it's stirred up some mixed feelings, especially in the Nashville music scene. See, while it's awesome to see "Fast Car" back in the spotlight and a whole new generation discovering Chapman's work, it's hard to ignore the fact that Tracy Chapman, as a Black queer woman, probably wouldn't have had the same shot at success in the country music world.

The numbers paint a pretty bleak picture: In 2022, less than 0.5 percent of songs played on country radio were by women of color and LGBTQ+ artists. And that's not even considering the two decades before that, where songs by these artists were largely excluded from radio playlists.

Holly G, who founded the Black Opry to support Black country music singers and fans, sums it up pretty well. She's thrilled to see Luke Combs paying homage to Chapman, but it's tough to fully embrace the excitement knowing the challenges Chapman would've faced breaking into the industry herself.

But hey, amidst all the complicated feelings, there's still hope for change. There's been a push for more inclusivity in Nashville, especially since the industry-wide reckoning after George Floyd's killing in 2020. And while Chapman's classic is making waves as one of Combs's biggest hits, it's sparking some important conversations about diversity in music.

So yeah, "Fast Car" might be an oldie, but it's still got a lot to say. And hopefully, it'll keep driving the conversation forward for a more inclusive music industry.

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