Thursday, October 11, 2012

Story Songs: Fast Car

Singer-songwriter and social activist Tracy Chapman sang about the seemingly endless cycle of poverty as it relates to a young woman in "Fast Car."

The song reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1988. A year  later she received a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

The song begins with the woman wanting to flee her sad surroundings and start a new life with her lover: 

"Anyplace is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we'll make something
But me myself I got nothing to prove"

We learn that the girl's mother left the family because of her alcoholic father but that she decided to drop out of school and take care of him. She expresses hopes and dreams of finding a new life:

"City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
And I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone"

But that doesn't happen as she finds work at a grocery store, he doesn't have a job, and they end up living in a shelter. And then we discover that she's back in the situation her mother experienced with her dad:

"You stay out drinking late at the bar
See more of your friends than you do of your kids
I'd always hoped for better
Thought maybe together you and me would find it
I got no plans I ain't going nowhere"

And in the end she says:

"You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so you can fly away
You gotta make a decision
You leave tonight or live and die this way"

The song is so powerful because Chapman focused on one person and the struggles she faced to escape poverty. And true to reality, it is extremely difficult to break that cycle.

Chapman followed "Fast Car" with other noteworthy songs such as "Talkin 'bout a Revolution," "Baby Can I Hold You," and "Give Me One Reason."

"Fast Car" lyrics


  1. eventhough this song is sad, there is something about it that is special, maybe even comforting, in a strange way, I think this song is a little like the Elvis song, in the ghetto.
    you always bring to my mind some nice memories Michael, so thank you for sharing all this with us :)

  2. You are right, Elizabeth. Both songs hit on the life in poverty -- having hope at some point and then facing despair. Thanks for your input.

  3. I really enjoy Chapman and this has always been one of my fav songs.

  4. It's been one of my favorites as well, Socorro.