"Fast Car" is a single by American singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman. It was released in April 1988 from her self-titled debut album. Her appearance on theNelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute was the catalyst for the song's becoming a top 10 hit in the United States, peaking at number 6 on the Hot 100, and a top 10 hit the United Kingdom, peaking at number 4 on the charts there.


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The song is a narrative tale of generational poverty. The song's narrator tells the story of her hard life, which begins when her mother divorces her jobless,alcoholic father, forcing the narrator to quit school in order to care for him. Eventually, she leaves her hometown with her partner in the hope of making a better life. Despite her employment at a grocery store, she falls victim to the cycle of poverty, as her life begins to mirror her mother's: her partner remains largely unemployed and becomes an alcoholic. She is left alone with her children while her partner spends time drinking with friends.

Finally, after getting a job that will support her family, she comes to accept her life as the way it is and to give up chasing empty dreams. She tells her partner to leave her; to take "your fast car and keep on driving." The final refrain is sung in variation, changing from "We gotta make a decision, leave tonight or live and die this way" to "You gotta make a decision, leave tonight or live and die this way."

Chart performance[edit]Edit

Rolling Stone ranked the song number 167 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2] It is Chapman's only song on the list (and the highest ranking song both written and performed by a female performer). In April 2011 the track also hit the UK top ten at number 4 after Michael Collings performed it onBritain's Got Talent.

Chart (1988) Peak


Australia (ARIA)[3] 4
Canada (RPM)[4] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[5] 1
New Zealand (RIANZ)[3] 21
Netherlands (Mega Top 50)[6] 2
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[3] 9
United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)[7] 5
US Billboard Hot 100[1][8] 6
Chart (2007) Peak


United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company) 93
Chart (2010) Peak


United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company) 57
Chart (2011) Peak


United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company) 4
Chart (2013) Peak


Denmark (IFPI Denmark) 29[9]

Chart successions[edit]Edit

Preceded by

"The Boys in Green" by Republic of Ireland Soccer Squad

Irish number one single

July 9, 1988 (1 week)

Succeeded by

"Nothing's Gonna Change My Love for You" by Glenn Medeiros

Preceded by

"I Don't Wanna Go on with You Like That" by Elton John

Canadian RPM Top Singles number-one single

September 3, 1988 (1 week)

Succeeded by

"Perfect World" by Huey Lewis and the News

Preceded by

Whitney Houston for "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)"

Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance

1989 for "Fast Car"

Succeeded by

Bonnie Raitt for "Nick of Time"

Cover versions[edit]Edit

The song has been covered many times by bands including The Flying PicketsHundred ReasonsXiu XiuVertical HorizonDarwin's Waiting RoomAmazing Transparent ManMYMPThe Wilkinsons,Boyce Avenue and by solo singers Mutya BuenaKristian LeontiouWayne WonderDavid UsherLinda PritchardBoyce Avenue (featuring Kina Grannis), Christian KaneMark WilkinsonElizabeth Gilliesand Hitomi Yaida.

In 2010, Kelly Clarkson and Daughtry performed a duet of the song in concert. It was also sampled by the rap group Nice & Smooth in their hit song "Sometimes I Rhyme Slow", making it a hit within the hip-hop community as well. British rapper Example also samples the song in his "I Need a Fast Car", which appeared on his mixtape We Didn't Invent the Remix.

In 1991, British soul singer Gabrielle recorded a demo of her song "Dreams" that featured a sample of "Fast Car". When it was released commercially in 1993 the sample was removed because of legal issues, but the version with the sample was still being played in nightclubs and DJ sets. Los Angeles-based turntablist DJ Quixotic is known to perform a cover of "Fast Car" by manipulating a tone record on a turntable to imitate the notes of the opening guitar riffs.

The song was parodied as "I Write a Fast Song" in the In Living Color sketch "Making of a Tracy Chapman Song", in which Chapman (portrayed by Kim Wayans) writes a song by looking out her window and witnessing events such as an old man getting hit by a bus and a domestic dispute.

The song was featured in an episode of Jake and Amir, however the words are changed to "I got a fast Jake".

In mid-2008, Swimming With Dolphins released a cover of the song as a B-side track to their EP, Ambient Blue.[10]

In December 2010, "boyceavenue"[11] and Kina Grannis did an acoustic cover and as of October 2013 has over 18 million views on YouTube and one of their most popular songs on iTunes.[12]

In April 2011, Michael Collings auditioned on Britain's Got Talent by singing a cover of "Fast Car". As a result, the song peaked on number 4 in the UK Singles Chart in May 2011.[13]

See also[edit]Edit

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