After Luke Combs’ cover of Tracy Chapman’s 1988 signature hit “Fast Car” has become one of the biggest hit songs of 2023, the Grammy-winning folk and soul artist is sharing her thoughts on his country-tinged version.
More than three decades after its original release, Chapman’s “Fast Car” has found a new audience — thanks to Combs’ take on the song out-peaking the original’s No. 6 slot on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 2 and climbing all the way up to No. 1 on the Billboard U.S. Country Airplay chart.
Chapman, 59, spoke about the cover in an exclusive statement to Billboard, writing, “I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honored to be there.”
Praising the new version by Combs, 33, she continued to the outlet, “I’m happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.'”
The country star’s cover of the song, a favorite of his from childhood, appears on his most recent album Gettin’ Old. During a concert in May, he recalled being 5 years old and listening to the song, as well as the rest of Chapman’s self-titled debut album, while riding in his dad’s brown Ford F-150.
“He played me all kinds of music, and one of the first songs that I remember hearing… I love this whole album, and there was this one song that really stuck out to me, though, and it was called ‘Fast Car,'” Combs said. “And that song has meant a lot to me ever since then for my whole life. I always think about my dad when it comes on, and us spending time together.”
Fans like Combs forming emotional attachments to the track is nothing new for the Ohio native singer-songwriter, who told the BBC that she often has people come up to her and tell her that “Fast Car” is “their song.”
“Someone told me at one point that they thought I’d been reading their mail. They were saying, ‘You seem to know my story,'” she said in 2010. “People would come up to me and tell me about a car, a relationship and some detail that they felt was in the song that represented something that had happened in their lives.”
Chapman was just 24 years old when the song came out, and PEOPLE described it at the time as “a female companion piece to one of Springsteen’s bucket-seat sagas.”
She told the BBC that much of her songwriting — which is widely praised for its social consciousness — is inspired by things she saw as a child being raised by a single mom in a working-class home in Cleveland.
“Everyone was really just, one, working hard, and two, hoping that things would get better,” she said.
“Fast Car” was the lead single off Tracy Chapman, and it received a massive boost after Chapman performed it at the Mandela concert at Wembley Stadium in London. Then a relatively unknown artist, she was added to the bill at the last minute after Stevie Wonder dropped out.
The song quickly became a runaway success, cracking the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and helping Chapman win three Grammys.
“I definitely felt the emotionality of the song, that there was something to it in that way. You never know how other people are going to respond to it,” she told the BBC. “In part everything that a person writes is autobiographical, but the songs weren’t directly so, or most of them were not, and ‘Fast Car’ wasn’t one that was directly autobiographical. I never had a fast car. It’s a story about a couple, and how they are trying to make a life together and they face various challenges.”
Since its release, “Fast Car” has been covered by other artists, and a tropical house cover by Jonas Blue was a Top 10 hit in the UK in 2015. That version has also been streamed more than 1 billion times on Spotify.