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Tracy Chapman

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Title: Tracy Chapman  
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Subject: New Beginning (Tracy Chapman album), Grammy Award for Song of the Year, Baby Can I Hold You, Collection (Tracy Chapman album), Tracy Chapman (album)
Collection: 1964 Births, African-American Female Singer-Songwriters, African-American Guitarists, American Buskers, American Contraltos, American Female Guitarists, American Feminists, American Folk Guitarists, American Folk Rock Musicians, American Folk Singers, Atlantic Records Artists, Brit Award Winners, Elektra Records Artists, Fast Folk Artists, Feminist Musicians, Grammy Award Winners, Living People, Musicians from Cleveland, Ohio, Tracy Chapman, Tufts University Alumni
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Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman
Chapman in Bruges, 2009
Background information
Born (1964-03-30) March 30, 1964
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Genres Folk, blues rock, pop, soul
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments Vocals, guitar, harmonica
Years active 1986–present
Labels Elektra Records
Website .comTracyChapman

Tracy Chapman (born March 30, 1964) is an American singer-songwriter, known for her hits "Fast Car" and "Give Me One Reason", along with other singles "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution", "Baby Can I Hold You", "Crossroads", "New Beginning" and "Telling Stories". She is a multi-platinum and four-time Grammy Award-winning artist.[1]

Chapman was signed to Elektra Records by Bob Krasnow in 1987. The following year she released her critically acclaimed debut album Tracy Chapman, which became a multi-platinum worldwide hit. The album garnered Chapman six Grammy Award nominations, including Album of the Year, three of which she won, including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her single "Fast Car", and Best New Artist. Chapman released her second album Crossroads the following year, which garnered her an additional Grammy nomination. Since then, Chapman has experienced further success with six more studio albums, which include her multi-platinum fourth album New Beginning, for which she won a fourth Grammy award, for Best Rock Song, for its lead single "Give Me One Reason". Chapman's most recent release is Our Bright Future, in 2008.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Social activism 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Discography 5
    • Contributions 5.1
  • Awards and nominations 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Chapman was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She was raised by her mother, who recognized Tracy's love of music and, despite not having much money, bought her a ukulele when she was just three.[2] Chapman began playing guitar and writing songs at the age of eight. She says that she may have been first inspired to play the guitar by the television show Hee Haw.[3]

Raised Baptist, Chapman attended an Episcopal high school.[3] She was accepted into the program "A Better Chance", which helps minority students attend private schools. She graduated from Wooster School in Connecticut, then attended Tufts University.[4] She graduated with a B.A. degree in anthropology and African studies.[5]


During college, Chapman began busking in Harvard Square and playing guitar in Club Passim, the Nameless Coffeehouse, and other coffeehouses in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Another Tufts student, Brian Koppelman, heard Chapman playing and brought her to the attention of his father, Charles Koppelman. Koppelman, who ran SBK Publishing, signed Chapman in 1986. After Chapman graduated from Tufts in 1987, he helped her to sign a contract with Elektra Records.[5]

Chapman in Budapest, Hungary, 1988

At Elektra, she released Tracy Chapman (1988). The album was critically acclaimed, and she began touring and building a fanbase. "Fast Car" began its rise on the US charts soon after she performed it at the televised Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert in June 1988; it became a number 6 pop hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending August 27, 1988. Rolling Stone ranked the song number 167 on their 2010 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[6] It is the highest-ranking song both written and performed by a female performer. "Talkin' 'bout 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 three 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."[7]

Her follow-up album Crossroads (1989) was less commercially successful, but still achieved platinum status. By 1992's Matters of the Heart, Chapman was playing to a small and devoted audience. Her fourth album New Beginning (1995) proved successful, selling over three million copies in the U.S. The album 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, peaking at Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Following a four-year hiatus, her fifth album, Telling Stories, was released in 2000. Its hit single, "Telling Stories", received heavy airplay on European radio stations and on Adult Alternative and Hot AC stations in the United States. Chapman toured Europe and the US in 2003 in support of her sixth album, Let It Rain (2002).

To support her seventh studio album, Where You Live (2005), Chapman toured major US cities in October and throughout Europe over the remainder of the year. The "Where You Live" tour was extended into 2006; the 28-date European tour featured summer concerts in Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, Finland, Norway, the UK, Russia and more. On June 5, 2006, she performed at the 5th Gala of Jazz in Lincoln Center, New York, and in a session at the 2007 TED (Technology Entertainment Design) conference in Monterey, California.

Chapman was commissioned by the American Conservatory Theater to compose music for its production of Athol Fugard's Blood Knot, a play on apartheid in South Africa, staged in early 2008.[8]

Atlantic Records released Chapman's eighth studio album, Our Bright Future (2008).[9] Chapman made a 26-date solo tour of Europe. She returned to tour Europe and selected North American cities during the summer of 2009. She was backed by Joe Gore on guitars, Patrick Warren on keyboards, and Dawn Richardson on percussion.[10]

Chapman was appointed a member of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival U.S. Documentary jury.[11]

Social activism

Chapman is widely regarded as a politically and socially active musician. In a 2009 interview with American radio network [3] This interest in human rights can be seen lyrically in her music. Songs such as 1988's "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution" highlight the importance of speaking up against injustice:

Don't you know, talking 'bout a revolution sounds like a whisper / when they're standing in the welfare lines.

Chapman's song "Fast Car" also brings awareness to the struggles of poverty, with lyrics such as:

I know things will get better / you'll find work and I'll get promoted / we'll move out of the shelter / buy a bigger house and live in the suburbs

Chapman's activism extends further than her lyrics. She has performed at numerous socially aware events, and continues to do so. In 1988, she performed in London as part of a worldwide concert tour to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Amnesty International.[12] The same year Chapman also performed in the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, an event which raised money for South Africa's Anti-Apartheid Movement and seven children's charities.[13] More recently, in 2004 Chapman performed (and rode) in the AIDS/LifeCycle event.[14]

Chapman has also been involved with Cleveland's elementary schools. A music video produced by Chapman that highlights significant achievements in African-American history has become an important teaching tool in Cleveland Public Schools. Chapman also agreed to sponsor a "Crossroads in Black History" essay contest for high school students in Cleveland and other cities.[15]

In 2004, Chapman was given an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts by her alma mater, Tufts University, recognizing her commitment to social activism.[16]

I'm fortunate that I've been able to do my work and be involved in certain organizations, certain endeavors, and offered some assistance in some way. Whether that is about raising money or helping to raise awareness, just being another body to show some force and conviction for a particular idea. Finding out where the need is – and if someone thinks you're going to be helpful, then helping.
— Tracy Chapman[17]

Chapman often performs at and attends charity events such as Make Poverty History, amfAR and AIDS/LifeCycle, to support social causes. She identifies as a feminist.[18]

Personal life

Although Chapman has never disclosed her sexual orientation, during the mid-1990s she dated writer Alice Walker.[19] Chapman maintains a strong separation between her personal and professional lives. "I have a public life that's my work life and I have my personal life," she said. "In some ways, the decision to keep the two things separate relates to the work I do."[20]



Duet songs:

Covered songs:

Awards and nominations

Grammy Award History
Other Awards
Year Ceremony Award Nominated Work Result
1988 Billboard Music Awards Best Female Video "Tracy Chapman" Won
1989 Soul Train Music Awards Best R&B/Urban Contemporary Album of the Year, Female Herself Nominated
Grammy Awards New Artist Herself Won
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Herself Won
Song of the Year "Fast Car" Nominated
Best Contemporary Folk Recording "Tracy Chapman" Won
Album of the Year "Tracy Chapman" Nominated
Record of the Year "Fast Car" Nominated
BRIT Awards International Breakout Herself Won
International Female Herself Won
MTV Video Music Awards Best Female Video "Fast Car" Nominated
American Music Awards Favorite Pop Rock New Artist Herself Won
Favorite Pop Rock Female Artist Herself Nominated
1990 Grammy Awards Best Contemporary Folk Recording "Crossroads" Nominated
1996 MTV Video Music Awards Best Female Video "Give Me One Reason" Nominated
1997 Grammy Awards Best Pop Album "New Beginning" Nominated
Best Rock Vocal Performance Female Herself Nominated
Best Rock Song "Give Me One Reason" Won
Song of the Year "Give Me One Reason" Nominated
Record of the Year "Give Me One Reason" Nominated
2002 IFPI Platinum Europe Music Awards Album Title "Collection" Won
2006 Meteor Ireland Music Awards Best International Female Herself Nominated
2009 SXSWi: Web Awards Honor Pop Music Herself Nominated
2010 Grammy Awards Best Contemporary Folk Recording "Our Bright Future" Nominated


  1. ^ GRAMMY Award Winners
  2. ^ Williamson, Nigel Tracy Chapman Biography All About Tracy Chapman, July 2001
  3. ^ a b c Martin, Michael "Without Further Ado, Songster Tracy Chapman Returns" National Public Radio, August 20, 2009
  4. ^ Biography All About Tracy Chapman
  5. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas Tracy Chapman All Music Guide
  6. ^ "'"500 Greatest Songs of All Time: Tracy Chapman, 'Fast Car.  
  7. ^ "Tracy Chapman"
  8. ^ "A.C.T. Tackles Big Issues in Fugard's Blood Knot".  
  9. ^ "Tracy Chapman".  
  10. ^ Tracy Chapman European / US Tour Dates 2009 All About Tracy Chapman, December 22, 2008
  11. ^ "Tracy Chapman, Dana Stevens, Bryan Singer, Max Mayer and More Among 2014 Sundance Film Festival Jurors". Broadway World. January 16, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Who We Are/History". Amnesty. Amnesty International. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Live Aid's Legacy of Charity Concerts". BBC (BBC News). June 30, 2005. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  14. ^ "AIDS LifeCycle 2004". Online Posting. Youtube. Retrieved October 18, 2011. 
  15. ^ "School Uses Video To Teach Black History". Curriculum Review 29 (8): 11. 1990. 
  16. ^ "Commencement Speaker Announced". E-News. Tufts University. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  17. ^ Younge, Gary (September 28, 2002). "A Militant Mellow".  
  18. ^ "The quiet revolutionary". The Guardian. October 31, 2008. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  19. ^ Wajid, Sara "No retreat", The Guardian, December 15, 2006
  20. ^ 2002 – Tracy Chapman still introspective? All About Tracy Chapman, October 2002

External links

  • Tracy Chapman, Official website
  • "Tracy Chapman", Atlantic Records
  • "A Better Chance", Official Website, education program for minority students
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Jody Watley
Grammy Award for Best New Artist
Succeeded by
Milli Vanilli (Award later revoked)
Preceded by
Whitney Houston
for "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)"
Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
for "Fast Car"
Succeeded by
Bonnie Raitt
for "Nick of Time"
Preceded by
Steve Goodman
for Unfinished Business
Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album
for Tracy Chapman
Succeeded by
Indigo Girls
for Indigo Girls
Preceded by
Glen Ballard and Alanis Morissette
for "You Oughta Know"
Grammy Award for Best Rock Song
for "Give Me One Reason"
Succeeded by
for "One Headlight"
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