Tracy Chapman stood on the Grammy’s stage exuding a humble, peaceful joy as she began strumming the intro to her 1988 hit “Fast Car.” After she sang the first verse, country star Luke Combs beamed as he joined in, duetting with one of his idols.
The two performers, representing different genres and generations of music, sang a hearty version of Chapman’s song at the 66th annual Grammy ceremony. Both Chapman and Combs took to the stage clad in black, standing in place in front of a backlit wall of spotlights that almost, appropriately, resembled traffic lights.
As the two sang, Chapman’s voice held the same crisp, warm feeling it had in ’88, while Combs’ signature grit and strength carried its own weight. The duo took turns singing verses, bringing their voices together on the chorus as Chapman played the acoustic guitar.
The whole crowd was sang along to the chorus’ iconic words: “You got a fast car / Is it fast enough so you can fly away? / You gotta make a decision / Leave tonight or live and die this way.” The camera even panned to Taylor Swift singing along to the chorus.
At the end of the performance, the crowd went wild. Combs looked at Chapman with immense admiration, gesturing to her and bowing down. Chapman, too, turned towards Combs and gave a respectful bow. The two’s connection onstage was palpable.
The performance held weight, since Chapman does not appear often as a live performer. She slowed down her musical appearances after finishing up her most recent tour in 2009.
Combs first heard Chapman’s “Fast Car” in his father’s truck when he was growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Fast Car” was regularly on his dad’s radio rotation—and it stuck with Combs. Now, the tune reminds him of spending time with his father. Since then, he’s regularly covered the song.
Combs released his country-fied reimagining of the song on his 2023 album “Gettin’ Old,” which took the music charts by storm as country fans experienced the song in a new light. It quickly hit number one on Billboard’s country airplay chart.
This summer, Chapman told Billboard that she “never expected to find (herself) on the country charts,” but that she was “honored to be there” and “happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.'”
In November, Luke Combs’ cover of the song won a CMA Award for Song of the Year at the 57th CMA Awards. The award goes to the writer of the winning song, which made Chapman the first Black woman to win a Country Music Association award, 35 years after the song debuted.
Combs also brought home a trophy for the song at the CMAs, which also won Single of the Year.
At this year’s Grammy Awards, Combs was nominated for his Country Solo Performance of “Fast Car,” but the award went to Chris Stapleton for “White Horse” earlier in the evening.
First appeared on www.tennessean.com