Artist Profile: Tracy Chapman


Tracy Chapman is a singer-songwriter that was best known for her hit songs “Give Me One Reason”, “Fast Car”, and “Baby Can I Hold You.” She is a Grammy Award-winning performer and she helped bring back the spotlight on singer and songwriters in the ‘80s.  She also had several albums and songs that went platinum. That’s why in this article, we are going to find out how Tracy Chapman’s songs and music changed the music industry. 

Early Life

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Tracy Chapman was raised by her music-loving mom who brought her a ukulele at just the tender age of three despite having little money. That’s why when Tracy Chapman was just eight years old, she started to write her own songs and play the guitar. Chapman was raised as Baptist and she graduated with a B.A degree in Anthropology and African Studies at the Tufts University.


When Tracy Chapman was in college, she began performing in Harvard Square and playing in different club and coffeehouses in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She made her first major stage performance when she became an opening-act for women’s music pioneer, Linda Tillery at Boston’s Strand Theater in 1985. While performing, she was noticed by another Tufts student named Brian Koppelman who told his father, Charles Koppelman, the man who happens to ran the record label SBK Publishing. They signed a record deal with Chapman in 1986 and after she graduated from college in 1987, Charles Koppelman helped Chapman to get a record deal with Elektra Records. 

In 1988, Tracy Chapman released her self-titled debut album in 1988 under Elektra Records. The album became a huge success and her single “Fast Car” began to climb the US charts after she performed it at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute which was a televised concert. The song stayed at the sixth spot of the Billboard Hot 100 charts for a week and it was even included in the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2010. It was even hailed as the highest-ranking song that was written and performed by a female artist. Tracey Chapman followed up this success by releasing two more singles namely “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution” and “Baby Can I Hold You.” Both songs also became successful. Her debut album did well in the market and went multi-platinum. It even won Chapman three Grammy Awards including Best New Artist. 

After a year, Tracy Chapman released her second album called “Crossroads” and even if it was less commercially successful compared to her first album, it still able to achieve platinum status. In 1992, she released her third album “Matters of the Heart,” and two years after that, her fourth album “New Beginning” was released. The album proved to be a successful hit which sold over three million copies in the United States alone. This album featured the single “Give Me One Reason” which won the Grammy for Best Rock Song in 1997 and proved to be Tracy Chapman’s most successful song to date. After a four-year hiatus, Chapman released her fifth album called “Telling Stories” in 2000. It’s carrier single and title track gained heavy airplay on European radio stations and Adult Alternative stations in the United States. in 2002, Tracy Chapman released her sixth album entitled “Let It Rain” and she toured Europe and the US to promote her album. In 2005, Tracy Chapman toured major US cities and Europe to promote her seventh album “Where You Live.”

In 2008, Tracy Chapman released her eight album “Out Bright Future” under Atlantic Records. She followed it up with a 26-date solo tour of Europe and after that, she toured selected North American cities in the summer of 2009. In November 2015, she released her Greatest Hits album which featured 18 songs including “Baby Can I Hold You”, “Fast Car”, “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution”, and the live version of “Stand by Me.” This album was her first global compilation release. 

Awards Won

  • 1988 Billboard Music Awards – Best Female Video
  • 1988 Grammy Awards – Best New Artist
  • 1988 Grammy Awards – Best Contemporary Folk Album
  • 1988 Grammy Awards – Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
  • 1989 Danish Music Awards – Best International Album
  • 1989 BRIT Awards – Best International Solo Female and Best International Breakthrough Act
  • 1989 Edison Awards – Best Singer/Songwriter
  • 1989 American Music Awards – Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist
  • 1997 Grammy Awards – Best Rock Song
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