Chapman in Bruges, 2009
March 30, 1964 |
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
|Genres||Folk, blues rock, pop, soul|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, harmonica|
Tracy Chapman (born March 30, 1964) is an American singer-songwriter, known for her hits "Fast Car" and "Give Me One Reason", along with other singles "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution", "Baby Can I Hold You", "Crossroads", "New Beginning" and "Telling Stories". She is a multi-platinum and four-time Grammy Award-winning artist.
Chapman was signed to Elektra Records by Bob Krasnow in 1987. The following year she released her critically acclaimed debut album Tracy Chapman, which became a multi-platinum worldwide hit. The album garnered Chapman six Grammy Award nominations, including Album of the Year, three of which she won, including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her single "Fast Car", and Best New Artist. Chapman released her second album Crossroads the following year, which garnered her an additional Grammy nomination. Since then, Chapman has experienced further success with six more studio albums, which include her multi-platinum fourth album New Beginning, for which she won a fourth Grammy award, for Best Rock Song, for its lead single "Give Me One Reason". Chapman's most recent release is Our Bright Future, in 2008.
Chapman was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She was raised by her mother, who recognized Tracy's love of music and, despite not having much money, bought her a ukulele when she was just three. Chapman began playing guitar and writing songs at the age of eight. She says that she may have been first inspired to play the guitar by the television show Hee Haw.
Raised Baptist, Chapman attended an Episcopal high school. She was accepted into the program "A Better Chance", which helps minority students attend private schools. She graduated from Wooster School in Connecticut, then attended Tufts University. She graduated with a B.A. degree in anthropology and African studies.
During college, Chapman began busking in Harvard Square and playing guitar in Club Passim, the Nameless Coffeehouse, and other coffeehouses in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Another Tufts student, Brian Koppelman, heard Chapman playing and brought her to the attention of his father, Charles Koppelman. Koppelman, who ran SBK Publishing, signed Chapman in 1986. After Chapman graduated from Tufts in 1987, he helped her to sign a contract with Elektra Records.
At Elektra, she released Tracy Chapman (1988). The album was critically acclaimed, and she began touring and building a fanbase. "Fast Car" began its rise on the US charts soon after she performed it at the televised Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert in June 1988; it became a number 6 pop hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending August 27, 1988. Rolling Stone ranked the song number 167 on their 2010 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". It is the highest-ranking song both written and performed by a female performer. "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution", the follow-up, charted at number 75 and was followed by "Baby Can I Hold You", which peaked at number 48. The album sold well, going multi-platinum and winning three Grammy Awards, including an honor for Chapman as Best New Artist. Later in 1988, Chapman was a featured performer on the worldwide Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Tour. According to the VH1 website, "Her album helped usher in the era of political correctness—along with 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M., Chapman's liberal politics proved enormously influential on American college campuses in the late '80s."
Her follow-up album Crossroads (1989) was less commercially successful, but still achieved platinum status. By 1992's Matters of the Heart, Chapman was playing to a small and devoted audience. Her fourth album New Beginning (1995) proved successful, selling over three million copies in the U.S. The album included the hit single "Give Me One Reason", which won the 1997 Grammy for Best Rock Song and became Chapman's most successful single to date, peaking at Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Following a four-year hiatus, her fifth album, Telling Stories, was released in 2000. Its hit single, "Telling Stories", received heavy airplay on European radio stations and on Adult Alternative and Hot AC stations in the United States. Chapman toured Europe and the US in 2003 in support of her sixth album, Let It Rain (2002).
To support her seventh studio album, Where You Live (2005), Chapman toured major US cities in October and throughout Europe over the remainder of the year. The "Where You Live" tour was extended into 2006; the 28-date European tour featured summer concerts in Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, Finland, Norway, the UK, Russia and more. On June 5, 2006, she performed at the 5th Gala of Jazz in Lincoln Center, New York, and in a session at the 2007 TED (Technology Entertainment Design) conference in Monterey, California.
Atlantic Records released Chapman's eighth studio album, Our Bright Future (2008). Chapman made a 26-date solo tour of Europe. She returned to tour Europe and selected North American cities during the summer of 2009. She was backed by Joe Gore on guitars, Patrick Warren on keyboards, and Dawn Richardson on percussion.
Chapman performed Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" on one of the final episodes of the Late Show with David Letterman in April 2015. The performance became a viral hit and was the focus of various news articles including some by Billboard and The Huffington Post. 
On November 20, 2015, Chapman released her Greatest Hits album. Consisting of 18 tracks including the live version of "Stand By Me", the album is Chapman's first global compilation release. 
Chapman is widely regarded as a politically and socially active musician. In a 2009 interview with American radio network NPR, she is quoted as saying: "I'm approached by lots of organizations and lots of people who want me to support their various charitable efforts in some way. And I look at those requests and I basically try to do what I can. And I have certain interests of my own, generally an interest in human rights." This interest in human rights can be seen lyrically in her music. Songs such as 1988's "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution" highlight the importance of speaking up against injustice:
Don't you know, talking 'bout a revolution sounds like a whisper / when they're standing in the welfare lines.
Chapman's song "Fast Car" also brings awareness to the struggles of poverty, with lyrics such as:
I know things will get better / you'll find work and I'll get promoted / we'll move out of the shelter / buy a bigger house and live in the suburbs
Chapman's activism extends further than her lyrics. She has performed at numerous socially aware events, and continues to do so. In 1988, she performed in London as part of a worldwide concert tour to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Amnesty International. The same year Chapman also performed in the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, an event which raised money for South Africa's Anti-Apartheid Movement and seven children's charities. More recently, in 2004 Chapman performed (and rode) in the AIDS/LifeCycle event.
Chapman has also been involved with Cleveland's elementary schools. A music video produced by Chapman that highlights significant achievements in African-American history has become an important teaching tool in Cleveland Public Schools. Chapman also agreed to sponsor a "Crossroads in Black History" essay contest for high school students in Cleveland and other cities.
In 2004, Chapman was given an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts by her alma mater, Tufts University, recognizing her commitment to social activism.
I'm fortunate that I've been able to do my work and be involved in certain organizations, certain endeavors, and offered some assistance in some way. Whether that is about raising money or helping to raise awareness, just being another body to show some force and conviction for a particular idea. Finding out where the need is – and if someone thinks you're going to be helpful, then helping.— Tracy Chapman
Although Chapman has never disclosed her sexual orientation, during the mid-1990s she dated writer Alice Walker. Chapman maintains a strong separation between her personal and professional lives. "I have a public life that's my work life and I have my personal life," she said. "In some ways, the decision to keep the two things separate relates to the work I do."
- 1988: Tracy Chapman
- 1989: Crossroads
- 1992: Matters of the Heart
- 1995: New Beginning
- 2000: Telling Stories
- 2002: Let It Rain
- 2005: Where You Live
- 2008: Our Bright Future
- "The Thrill Is Gone" with BB King from his album Deuces Wild
- "Give Me One Reason" with Eric Clapton from the album A Very Special Christmas Live
- "Baby Can I Hold You" with Pavarotti from the DVD/Album Pavarotti and Friends for Cambodia and Tibet
- "Ain't No Sunshine" with Buddy Guy from his album Bring 'Em In
- "Trench Town Rock" with Stephen and Ziggy Marley at the One Love Bob Marley All Star Tribute
- "The Maker" with Dave Matthews on October 21, 2001 at the Bridge School Benefit
- "The House of the Rising Sun" – Rubáiyát (LP)
- "The Times They Are A Changin" – Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Celebration (LP)
- "O Holy Night" – A Very Special Christmas 3 (LP) and A Very Special Christmas Live (LP)
- "Three Little Birds" – Live at the One Love Bob Marley All Star Tribute
- "Get Up Stand Up" – by Bob Marley featured on the Let It Rain tour edition CD2 (LP)
- "Stand By Me" – by Ben E. King on the XM Hear Music Radio Sessions Volume 1 (LP)
Awards and nominations
|1988||Billboard Music Awards||Best Female Video||"Fast Car"||Won|
|1989||Soul Train Music Awards||Best R&B/Urban Contemporary Album of the Year, Female||Herself||Nominated|
|BRIT Awards||Best International Breakthrough Act||Herself||Won|
|Best International Solo Female||Won|
|MTV Video Music Awards||Best Female Video||"Fast Car"||Nominated|
|American Music Awards||Favorite Pop Rock New Artist||Herself||Won|
|Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist||Nominated|
|1996||MTV Video Music Awards||Best Female Video||"Give Me One Reason"||Nominated|
|2002||IFPI Platinum Europe Music Awards||Album Title||Collection||Won|
|2006||Meteor Ireland Music Awards||Best International Female||Herself||Nominated|
|2009||SXSWi: Web Awards Honor||Pop Music||Herself||Nominated|
|1989||Herself||Best New Artist||Won|
|Tracy Chapman||Album of the Year||Nominated|
|Best Contemporary Folk Album||Won|
|"Fast Car"||Song of the Year||Nominated|
|Record of the Year||Nominated|
|Best Female Pop Vocal Performance||Won|
|1990||Crossroads||Best Contemporary Folk Album||Nominated|
|1997||New Beginning||Best Pop Album||Nominated|
|"Give Me One Reason"||Song of the Year||Nominated|
|Record of the Year||Nominated|
|Best Female Rock Vocal Performance||Nominated|
|Best Rock Song||Won|
|2010||Our Bright Future||Best Contemporary Folk Album||Nominated|
- GRAMMY Award Winners Grammy.com
- Williamson, Nigel Tracy Chapman Biography All About Tracy Chapman, July 2001
- Martin, Michael "Without Further Ado, Songster Tracy Chapman Returns" National Public Radio, August 20, 2009
- Biography All About Tracy Chapman
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas Tracy Chapman All Music Guide
- "500 Greatest Songs of All Time: Tracy Chapman, 'Fast Car'". Rolling Stone. May 2010. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
- "Tracy Chapman" VH1.com
- "A.C.T. Tackles Big Issues in Fugard's Blood Knot". American Conservatory Theater. January 18, 2008.
- "Tracy Chapman". Atlantic Records. Retrieved March 16, 2009.
- Tracy Chapman European / US Tour Dates 2009 All About Tracy Chapman, December 22, 2008
- "Tracy Chapman, Dana Stevens, Bryan Singer, Max Mayer and More Among 2014 Sundance Film Festival Jurors". Broadway World. January 16, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
- Pitney, Nico (June 13, 2015). "Tracy Chapman Singing 'Stand By Me' Will Break Your Heart". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
- "Tracy Chapman Greatest Hits releases on Nov 20, 2015". about-tracy-chapman.net. October 16, 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
- "Who We Are/History". Amnesty. Amnesty International. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- "Live Aid's Legacy of Charity Concerts". BBC. BBC News. June 30, 2005. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
- "AIDS LifeCycle 2004". Online Posting. Youtube. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- "School Uses Video To Teach Black History". Curriculum Review. 29 (8): 11. 1990.
- "Commencement Speaker Announced". E-News. Tufts University. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- Younge, Gary (September 28, 2002). "A Militant Mellow". The Guardian. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
- "The quiet revolutionary". The Guardian. October 31, 2008. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
- Wajid, Sara "No retreat", The Guardian, December 15, 2006
- 2002 – Tracy Chapman still introspective? All About Tracy Chapman, October 2002
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|Media from Commons|
|Quotations from Wikiquote|
|Data from Wikidata|
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- Tracy Chapman at DMOZ
- Atlantic Records page
- "A Better Chance" education program for minority students
|Awards and achievements|
|Grammy Award for Best New Artist
Milli Vanilli (Award later revoked)
for "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)"
|Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
for "Fast Car"
for "Nick of Time"
for Unfinished Business
|Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album
for Tracy Chapman
for Indigo Girls
Glen Ballard and Alanis Morissette
for "You Oughta Know"
|Grammy Award for Best Rock Song
for "Give Me One Reason"
for "One Headlight"