Tracy Chapman (born March 30, 1964) is an American singer-songwriter, best known for her singles, “Fast Car”, “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution”, “Baby Can I Hold You?”, and “Give Me One Reason”. She is a multi-platinum and multi-Grammy Award-winning artist.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Tracy Chapman began playing guitar and writing songs as a child. She was accepted into A Better Chance, the national resource for identifying, recruiting and developing leaders among academically gifted students of color, which enabled her to attend Wooster School in Connecticut and Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.
During college, Chapman began street-performing and playing guitar in coffeehouses in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After waiting to graduate college, she signed to Elektra Records, releasing Tracy Chapman (1988). The album was critically acclaimed, and she began touring and building a fan base. Soon after she performed it at the televised Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert in June 1988, Chapman’s “Fast Car” began its rise on the US charts, eventually becoming a Top Ten pop hit on the Billboard Hot 100. “Talkin’ About A Revolution”, the follow-up, charted at Number 75, and was followed by “Baby Can I Hold You”, which peaked at Number 48 The album sold well, going multi-platinum and winning four Grammy Awards, including an honor for Chapman as Best New Artist. Later in 1988, Chapman was a featured performer on the worldwide Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Tour. According to the VH1 website, “her album helped usher in the era of political correctness - along with 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M., Chapman’s liberal politics proved enormously influential on American college campuses in the late ‘80s.”
Her follow-up album Crossroads (1989) was less commercially successful. By 1992’s Matters of the Heart, Chapman was playing to a small and devoted audience. However, to the surprise of most industry-watchers, Chapman’s fourth album, New Beginning (1995), proved successful, selling over three million copies just in the U.S. It included the hit single “Give Me One Reason”, which won the 1997 Grammy for Best Rock Song and became Chapman’s most successful single to date. The following album was 2000’s Telling Stories, which featured more of a rock sound than folk. Its hit single, “Telling Stories”, received heavy airplay on European radio stations, and on Adult Alternative and Hot AC stations in the United States. Her sixth album was Let It Rain (2002), in support of which she toured in Europe and the US in 2003.
In May 2004, her alma mater, Tufts University honored her with an honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, for her contributions as a socially conscious and artistically accomplished musician.
Where You Live, Chapman’s seventh studio album, was released in September 2005. In order to create an opportunity for more emotion, she kept the production and performance aspect simple. Her testament to musical simplicity is a good move, allowing this important singer/songwriter a chance to showcase beauty, fragility, and a magically incendiary spirit. A brief supporting tour took place in major cities across the US in October and continued throughout Europe over the remainder of the year. The “Where You Live” tour was extended into 2006.
On her 20th anniversary as a recording artist, Tracy Chapman has written one of the most powerful and moving albums of her career in Our Bright Future. Tracy worked with producer Larry Klein, who has produced albums by Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, and Madeleine Peyroux.