How a Misplaced Hard Drive Helped Tracey Chapman’s Career in 1988
Summary: Tracey Chapman’s 1988 breakthrough single “Fast Car” established her as one of the most prominent female singers of her time and helped her take home three Grammy Awards the following year, including Best New Artist. The story of “Fast Car”, one of the most exciting singles of that year, is told by a young woman who drops out of school to help her alcoholic father and dreams of escaping everything in her equally destitute companion’s car.
The song “Fast Car” became a hit, but what was the reason for the song to take its rightful place in the history of music?
On June 11, 1988, Stevie Wonder was scheduled to perform at Wembley Stadium in honor of Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday in front of a huge crowd of 80,000. However, he discovered that the hard drives containing the recorded music needed for his set had gone missing when he was about to go on stage.
Wonder abruptly left the stage, upset and in tears. Tracey Chapman, who had already played a set, hurried back. on the stage to fill in the gap. She calmed the restless audience, who watched her performance in awe. See below…
Chapman’s performance of “Fast Car” and “Across the Lines” was met with rave reviews by 80,000 viewers and 600 million viewers from around the world.
In just the next two weeks, her debut album sold another 1.75 million copies. In addition, the song “Fast Car” peaked at No. 6 in the US and No. 4 in the UK, as well as being nominated for two Grammy Awards and an MTV Video Music Award. Due to his influence, Chapman also won Grammys for Best Contemporary Folk Album, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and Best New Artist.
Chapman hasn’t released a new song since 2008, but despite that, “Fast Car” has become one of the most popular and well-covered songs of the last decade.
It was performed live by Khalid, Sam Smith and Justin Bieber. Remade by reggae and EDM artists. Two remastered versions debuted in 2020, with Luke Combs posting an acoustic version online and Black Pumas posting a studio-recorded version as their new single.