Country cover of 'Fast Car' gets approval from Tracy Chapman herself
Grammy-nominated country star Luke Combs had been performing the 1988 classic at his concerts, calling it a "perfect song."
Covering songs is trickier than it looks. Sure, it’s technically doable for anyone with musical ability, but to reimagine a song in a fresh, new way while still holding onto its original essence takes more than just skill. The truly great cover songs happen when the new artist understands what made it great in the first place on an emotional level.
And then you have songs that are so lightning in a bottle that seemingly no cover can do it justice, no matter what. Arguably, Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” is one of them. There’s just something about Chapman’s otherworldly vocals that bring the song’s simple, soulful lyrics to life in a special, profound way.
However, Luke Combs has seemingly done the impossible on multiple levels, giving the folk tune a country music spin, having people love it and even getting approval from Chapman herself.
If you haven’t heard it yet, a video is posted below for your listening pleasure.
The literal hundreds of thousands of folks who have heard it agree rather unanimously that Combs did a surprisingly good job.
As one person wrote, “I appreciate the fact that Luke understood the perfection and simplistic beauty of Chapman’s song and kept his cover true to the original.”
Another agreed, “Normally I am skeptical about folks covering songs that should be left untouched. But after listening to this cover all I can say is WELL DONE! He remained true to the song.”
“Fast Car” has been a live concert staple of Combs for years. And during a show in May, the country star shared how he first fell in love with the song (the whole album, really) because of his dad, who would play it while riding in his 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,'" he told the crowd. “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."
Three decades after its debut, Combs’ version of "Fast Car," which is part of his new album, “Gettin’ Old,” charted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot—besting the original’s No. 6 peak in 1988. And while the cover’s breakthrough sparked some discourse over racism within the country music genre, many are pointing out how the original was a career-making, multiple award-winning hit, leaving Chapman far from being snubbed.
“Combs’ version has generated at least $500,000 in global publishing royalties, Billboard estimates, with the bulk going to Chapman who owns both the writers’ and publisher’s share of the song.” https://t.co/eYrVr0Xjz1— Angelo Young (@angeloyoung_) July 8, 2023
Plus, Combs’ rendition only adds to Chapman’s success. According to Billboard, not only does she make a hefty portion of money through royalties, she is the first Black woman to hit No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart in over 30 years as a song’s sole writer. And an added plus—Chapman also reached No. 1 on Billboard‘s Country Songwriters chart. She’s basically dominating in a music genre she’s never even pursued.
As for how Chapman feels about the surprise windfall, she told Billboard in an exclusive statement, “I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honored to be there,” adding that “I’m happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.’” Can you imagine getting this kind of nod from an artist you deeply admire? I’d be done for.
Combs would end up reciprocating the appreciation, calling "Fast Car" a "perfect song."
“I have played it in my live show now for six-plus years and everyone—I mean everyone—across all these stadiums relates to this song and sings along," he told Billboard exclusively. "That’s the gift of a supernatural songwriter. The success of my cover is unreal and I think it’s so cool that Tracy is getting recognized and has reached new milestones. I love that she is out there feeling all the love and that she gave me a shout-out! Thank you, Tracy!”
Let’s conclude by asking the question on everybody’s mind: When are we getting a duet?