Tracy Chapman – Fast car
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone
Tracy Chapman released her single Fast Car in April 1988, but a couple of months later, on June 11, 1988, it became a punch in the stomach of the world; a story of dreams made of very simple plans, with only one point: run away, just run away, in any case it will be better than here and now.
What happened on that day was either random and unique: it is the great live worldwide concert for Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday, when he still was a political prisoner in South Africa ruled by apartheid; Tracy thinks her performance on stage is over, after playing many pieces from her debut album, when she is recalled to the stage due to a technical delay for Stevie Wonder’s performance; she, alone on guitar, performs an acoustic version of Fast Car: success is unbelievable. Tracy Chapman’s career from this point on was unstoppable.
There are so many versions incessantly created by artists from all geographical and musical backgrounds, up to the paradox that sees Tracy Chapman “unproductive” since 2008 despite “important” covers of 2015, including the Tropical house-style one by Jonas Blue.
In the title we find the car, but in the song the car is just a detail. The text tells in a roughly simple way about a girl, already abandoned by her mother and with an alcoholist father to look after, initially intent on rethinking the carefree moments of when she wandered hugging her boyfriend on a “fast car”, which becomes the key for a radical change, a sharp cut without having to pay attention to all the implications and consequences.
Years later, however, she finds herself rushing into another poor story, in which she is the only one working while he is always at the bar drinking; then she understands his mother’s despair and invites her man to take responsibility or take his fast car and leave.
In the end, three dreams crossed in that concert: the exit from despair narrated in the song, the end of apartheid (a frequently requested event in the 80s, together with the liberation of Mandela, let’s think of Simple Minds’ Mandela Day, written specifically for the concert) and the dream of Tracy Chapman “to be someone”.
Tracy Chapman on Wikipedia