What Happened to Tracy Chapman?

Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman began a folk revival in 1988 with her self-titled album and the smash hit “Fast Car,” which was unlike anything else in the Top 40 at the time. Then disappointment hit as fans grew tired of the social and political themes of her songs, and she was on the verge of anonymity for a while. What happened, and what is she doing now?


Chapman became an unlikely superstar after “Fast Car.” She won three Grammys in 1989, the most of any artist that year, and took home the Best New Artist award. She also performed on the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Tour along with such notable artists as Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Peter Gabriel.

Her label, Elektra Records, wanted to strike while the iron was hot, and her follow-up, Crossroads, was rushed and sounded too much like her debut album. It sold well in the U.S. but yielded no Top 40 hits. Her third album, Matters of the Heart, didn’t even crack the Top 50. It looked like Chapman was a one-hit wonder.


That all changed with the release of “Give Me One Reason” in 1995. An old song that Chapman performed on Saturday Night Live back in 1989, the up-tempo, blues-tinged “Give Me One Reason” climbed even higher than “Fast Car,” reaching No. 3 and catapulting Chapman back into the spotlight. It won a Grammy for Best Rock Song and was nominated for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

“Give Me One Reason” was vindication for all the critics who called her a flash in the pan. But just as before, the new-found fame was fleeting. Four subsequent albums failed to find an audience; however, her last album, Our Bright Future, was released in 2008, going gold in France and Switzerland and earning Chapman another Grammy nomination. Although she hasn’t officially retired, making an appearance on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” back in 2020, she hasn’t released any new music in almost 15 years.

Chapman v. Minaj

Tracy Chapman - Our Bright Future album coverIn 2018, Chapman sued rapper Nicki Minaj for the song “Sorry,” saying that Minaj had sampled “Baby Can I Hold You” without her permission. Minaj sampled a snippet for the song, a collaboration with Nas that was never officially released but was leaked on radio stations. Chapman had repeatedly denied Minaj’s requests to use the song, according to the lawsuit. In September 2020, the suit was settled out of court when Minaj paid Chapman $450,000.


One of the singles from Tracy Chapman, “Baby Can I Hold You,” was covered by the Irish boy band Boyzone in 1997 and reached No. 2 in the U.K. Ronan Keating, Boyzone’s lead singer, featured a version of the song on his greatest hits album.

In 2023, country singer Luke Combs released a version of “Fast Car.” The version, which didn’t veer to far from the original, reached No. 2 on the Country Singles chart and No. 8 on the Hot 100 but exposed a new generation and a new segment of fans.

Tracy Chapman’s sexuality

Is Tracy Chapman gay? The real answer is, it’s none of our business. Chapman has kept her personal life personal, and we need to respect that. End of story.


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