For Luke Combs, Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” Evokes a Ford Truck

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

At the 66th Grammy Awards on Sunday night, country music star Luke Combs surprised in-person and television audiences alike when the curtain dropped ahead of his cover of the song “Fast Car”. As the familiar guitar riff began, the lights lifted to reveal not Combs, but rather, the song’s original creator: singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman.

The two artists alternated verses before joining for the chorus bringing the house down with a duet for the ages. But it was the brief film shown before the performance, an interview and montage with Combs, that gave us the automotive connection beyond just the notion of a car that could “get us outta here.”

“My dad had a 1988 Ford F-150 pickup truck,” said Combs to the producers. “It had a cassette player in it, and my dad would play me that Tracy Chapman self-titled album. That song, ‘Fast Car’, it was my favorite song before I even knew what a favorite song was.” Over a collage of photos from Combs’ younger days, from school pictures to early gigs at local bars, Combs shared how the song became a foundational part of his musical blossoming. “I’ve been playing that song since I could play guitar, honestly. I just love that song.”

Luke Combs YouTube CBS Yellow Pickup Truck Animation still

Combs recorded a cover of the song as a part of his most recent album, titled Getting Old. When the cover first appeared on his record, Chapman, who has since retreated to a more reclusive life, was courteous and earnest in her support of Combs. “I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honored to be there,” Chapman told Billboard in an exclusive statement. “I’m happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.’”

The song has been a staple at all of Combs’ live shows for a while now, often sung alongside an audience that routinely joins him in belting out. It’s also proving to be quite successful from a charts and awards standpoint. Combs’ cover has reached as high as number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and has topped country music charts everywhere. Along the way, Combs earned two Country Music Association awards in 2023 for single of the year and song of the year.

Of course, “Fast Car” was already an established hit before Combs’ soulful vocals lifted its lyrics. When Chapman first released the song in 1988, it earned her three Grammy nominations of her own: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, the latter of which she won in 1989.

Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs perform Fast Car onstage during the 66th GRAMMY Awards
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

The duet, then, was a fitting high point for the two artists. Fans of Combs and Chapman alike flooded social media with personal connections to the song, often involving an automobile of their own.

The Grammy duet caught the eye of Ford CEO Jim Farley as well. “It was such a moving performance and one of those shared cultural moments that everyone was talking about at work the next morning,” Farley said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press last night. “It’s special that a Ford truck was a little part of the backstory.”




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    As a seasoned dive bar cover band warrior I chafe at note for note remakes that get airplay and win awards. Nobody in a bar wants to hear some local band’s reinterpretation of their memory so of course the object is to mimic the record as closely as possible. But in the big time (which I admittedly have only had fleeting brushes with) I’d much prefer an artist bring some actual art to the game. Just watch/play Tracy’s original, she deserves every view count..

    I hope you all love this song to death, because (move over Dinah Shore and Bob Seger) an ad jingle has just been born. Might be a little late for this Super Bowl, but you’ll have years to get sick of it. Related note, I think Alan Jackson could have saved Mercury, but that’s not the direction they wanted.

    It’s a nice story. Yeah I do wonder if “Fast Car” is about to become commercial overload status shortly.

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