Meaning of “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman

“Fast Car” is a song performed by American singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman. Contrary to popular belief, the song isn’t really about cars. The lyrics of the song tell the story of a couple determined to escape the captivities of poverty and make their lives better.

In an interview with Q magazine, Chapman said of the song as one whose theme is about a relationship which fails to work out mainly because it didn’t start from the right place.

Fast Car

Facts about “Fast Car”

  • “Fast Car” was written solely by Tracy Chapman.
  • The song’s production was handled by American music producer David Kershenbaum.
  • The song was recorded in 1987 and released on 1st April, 1988 as one of the 3 singles released from Chapman’s1988 self-titled debut album.
  • Upon its release, the song didn’t popular until she performed it live at the famous anti-apartheid concert the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute at Wembley Stadium, London on June 11th, 1988. During the performance, the relatively unknown Chapman performed the song accompanied only her acoustic guitar to an audience of over 100,000 at the stadium and a further worldwide audience of over 600 million viewing it live on their TVs. The performance not only made the song popular, but also propelled Chapman to stardom.
  • “Fast Car” is the most famous song of Chapman’s entire career.
  • After being placed at the 167th position on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, Fast Car made history by becoming the highest ranking song on the list to have been solely written and performed by a female singer.
  • On the US Billboard Hot 100, the song peaked at number 6 whereas on the UK Singles Chart, it reached No. 4.


Did “Fast Car” win a Grammy Award?

Yes, it did. At the 31st Annual Grammy Awards in 1989, the song was honored with 3 nominations in the following categories:

  • Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
  • Song of the Year
  • Record of the Year

It won the Grammy Award for the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. However, it lost both the Song of the Year and the Record of the Year categories to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.

Which artists have covered “Fast Car”?

Over the years, “Fast Car” has been covered by several artists. One of the notable covers includes that of English DJ and record producer Jonas Blue in 2015. The cover features the vocals of British singer Dakota. Blue’s version was so successful that it peaked at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart.

Below is Jonas Blue’s cover of “Fast Car”:

3 Responses

  1. sarafina m bockarie says:

    which class does the work claim to represent in fast car

  2. Karen H. says:

    The song is about a couple living in poverty trying to find away out to live a better life. It’s sad and poetic.

    To Sarafina: To answer your question, it represents the lower end of working class people making minimum wage or those unable to find work. Good question!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I wouldn’t describe this song as being about a couple trying to rise above poverty. More like a woman/mother working her butt off to support her family and provide a better life while her dead beat boyfriend/husband sits on his butt at the local bar. Which is why she eventually tells him to keep on driving.

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