#263 – Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman

0263

The sole list appearance from Tracy Chapman is her debut album.  The 1988 release was produced by David Kershenbaum, after several producers turned the album down.  The album reached #1 on the US Billboard 200, as well as topping charts in Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Sara

Since I own this on vinyl and listen to it about once a week, this one wasn’t tough to find time for on my calendar. This album is truly brilliant.  Tracy Chapman was discovered at a coffeehouse where she performed at Tufts, after a protest organizer was told she’d be a great performer for an upcoming anti-apartheid rally he was planning.  His father happened to be executive producer Brian Koppelman with Elektra records, and Tracy thought he was full of it. She did not take Koppelmen’s offers to help her record an album seriously until he had attended many of her shows.  ‘Talking bout a Revolution’ had been recorded and played on a Tufts radio station but the rest was recorded for the first time when she was signed.

The first track ‘Talking bout a Revolution’ is one of my favorite two Tracy Chapman songs of all-time. Never has it resonated with me more than in these current times, but I’ve always been head over heels for this song (I also love the song ‘Head Over Heels’ by Alanis Morrissette, which appears on the biggest scorn of this whole list, ‘Jagged Little Pill’). If you’re wondering what song was most popular in radio play in Tunisia during the 2011 Tunisian Revolution, this is it.  It was also frequently played before speeches during the campaign of a popular democratic candidate from Vermont who supported Hillary Clinton when he did not win the Democratic nomination. It’s pure, it’s inspiring, and it’s to the  point. A beautiful song.

Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ ’bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in the unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion
Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ ’bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Poor people gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people gonna rise up
And take what’s theirs
Don’t you know
You better run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run
Oh I said you better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run
 

My other favorite song on this album (Yes, I obviously love ‘Fast Car’ too) is ‘Baby Can I Hold You.’  On the rare occasion that I don’t just listen to this album straight through and I’m just going to listen to one TC song real quick, it’s frequently this one. It’s a brilliant song about the key ingredient to any successful relationship, communication.

If you want to have your mind absolutely blown, listen to this duet she performed with freaking Pavarotti:

 
Sorry 
Is all that you can’t say 
Years gone by and still 
Words don’t come easily 
Like sorry like sorry
Forgive me
Is all that you can’t say 
Years gone by and still 
Words don’t come easily 
Like forgive me forgive me
But you can say baby 
Baby can I hold you tonight 
Maybe if I told you the right words 
At the right time you’d be mine
I love you 
Is all that you can’t say 
Years gone by and still
Words don’t come easily 
Like I love you I love you
But you can say baby 
Baby can I hold you tonight 
Maybe if I told you the right words 
Ooh, at the right time you’d be mine
Baby can I hold you tonight 
Maybe if I told you the right words 
Ooh, at the right time you’d be mine
You’d be mine
You’d be mine
 

It’s political. It talks about some serious issues, like poverty, racism, and domestic violence. It’s about love. It’s a window into someone’s diary. Considering it’s almost exclusively one voice and an acoustic guitar, it’s remarkable.  I’d love this one for a top 100 spot, but glad it made it on here at all given some of the glaring omissions from this era/gender/genre.

 

Steve

I had never listened to Tracy Chapman beyond her radio presence.  She has a very distinct voice, and the combination of her voice and excellent lyrics is pretty powerful.

“Fast Car” is an excellent track.  It tells the story of a poor woman trying to hitch a ride to anywhere to escape poverty.  This song still gets radio airtime on a variety of formats.  It is that kind of song, it fits into several genres, and the lyrics are pretty timeless.

You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Any place is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we’ll make something
Me myself I got nothing to prove

You got a fast car
I got a plan to get us out of here
I been working at the convenience store
Managed to save just a little bit of money
Won’t have to drive too far
Just ‘cross the border and into the city
You and I can both get jobs
And finally see what it means to be living

See my old man’s got a problem
He live with the bottle that’s the way it is
He says his body’s too old for working
His body’s too young to look like his
My mama went off and left him
She wanted more from life than he could give
I said somebody’s got to take care of him
So I quit school and that’s what I did

You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so we can fly away?
We gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way

So remember when we were driving driving in your car
Speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

One of my favorite tracks that I had not heard before was “If Not Now.”  There is nothing ground breaking here, but I enjoyed the song.  It is about not procrastinating when it comes to love.  I’m going to try to apply the advice in this song to completing these posts.

If not now then when
If not today then
Why make your promises
A love declared for days to come
Is as good as none

You can wait ’til morning comes
You can wait for the new day
You can wait and lose this heart
You can wait and soon be sorry

Now love’s the only thing that’s free
We must take it where it’s found
Pretty soon it may be costly

If not now what then
We all must live our lives
Always feeling
Always thinking
The moment has arrived

 

My apologies for these being so sporadic lately.  It is all me, Sara has passed me by several albums, but I am going to sit down and catch up!

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