The country music charts have been dominated by Luke Combs’ rendition of Tracy Chapman’s popular song, “Fast Car,” yet amid its success, some have questioned whether racism is present in the genre.
The issue is that recent think pieces on this subject have been published, including one from WaPo that really began this discussion, and they all ask the same question: Why didn’t TC appeal to the same audience as Luke?
After conducting interviews with various people, etc., a lot of these publications seem to come to the conclusion that Black singers still find it difficult to succeed in the country music industry. And they’re citing Luke’s example of giving “Fast Car” fresh life as their exhibit A for that claim.
Naturally, the term “racism” is used frequently in coming to this conclusion.
“I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honored to be there. I’m happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.’”
— Tracy Chapman (@tchapmanonline) July 6, 2023
According to the WaPo article’s author, who was promoting her own work, “As Luke Combs’s hit cover of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ dominates the country charts, it’s bringing up some complicated emotions in fans & singers who know that Chapman, as a queer Black woman, would have an almost zero chance at that achievement herself.”
Unfortunately for her, it doesn’t seem like the Internet is buying her argument outright. Instead, it appears to be ridiculing WaPo and rejecting the notion that “Fast Car” was some obscure tune that is only now becoming well-known.
You can judge for yourself how people are responding, but as many of them are pointing out, “Fast Car” was a huge success when it was released in ’88 and helped Tracy break into the music industry. It also earned Tracy numerous accolades, including Grammys and other awards.
Even in terms of sales, the song was a smash, climbing to the top of several charts around the world, peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot 100 list at the time. In conclusion, it appears that Tracy is being ridiculed for feeling left out or ignored as a result of Luke’s usage of it.
The song “Fast Car” wasn’t originally released as a country song, as others have also pointed out, and the only reason it’s currently so popular in the country scene is that a major country performer performed their own rendition of it. That also goes by the name of a crossover cover.
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We’re also just now getting to a significant aspect of this, notably the fact that Tracy publicly praised Luke for his version and, more significantly, the significant amount of royalties this brought in for her given that she wrote the song in the first place.
I never anticipated ending up on the country music charts, but I’m honoured to be there, Tracy remarked. I’m thrilled for Luke and his success and thankful that ‘Fast Car’ has gained new admirers. She appears to be more than okay with this, in other words.