What does 'Fast Car' mean? A look back at Tracy Chapman's 1988 hit

FILE-Tracy Chapman performs during the Hampton Court Palace Festival in 2006, ((Photo by Gary Clark/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

Tracy Chapman made a name for herself in the music industry with one of the biggest songs in her career: "Fast Car."

The lead single from Chapman's self-titled 1988 debut album reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and earned her three Grammy nominations, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year, and the one she won for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, according to American Songwriter, a songwriting and music publication.

In total, Chapman has won four Grammy Awards over the course of her career.

"Fast Car" became Chapman’s well-known song, but many don’t know the meaning of it.

RELATED: Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' wins CMA Song of the Year decades after its release

According to American Songwriter, the track is written from the point of view of a woman whose life hasn't worked out the way she envisioned. 

"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 startin’ from zero, got nothing to lose. Maybe we’ll make something.Me, myself, I got nothing to prove."

The song continues sharing that she quit school and works at a convenience store to pay the bills while her boyfriend hangs out at the bar.

"See, my old man’s got a problem. He lives 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 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."

Chapman then thinks about better days, when they had hopes and dreams while riding in his fast car, American Songwriter noted. 

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

"So, I 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, I, had a feeling that I belonged I, I, had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone."

"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 across the border and into the city. You and I can both get jobs. Finally see what it means to be living."

In 2023, Chapman’s song topped the country music charts  thanks to a cover by singer Luke Combs.


Luke Combs performs onstage during the 65th Grammy Awards at Crypto.com Arena on February 05, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

And that same year, Chapman won song of the year at the Country Music Association Awards and became the first Black songwriter to win the award, Rolling Stone reported. 

But this weekend, Chapman and Combs will hit the stage to perform a duet of "Fast Car" at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, according to Variety

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.