Chapman in Bruges, 2009
March 30, 1964|
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Tracy Chapman (born March 30, 1964) is an American singer-songwriter, known for her hits "Fast Car" and "Give Me One Reason", along with other singles "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution", "Baby Can I Hold You", "Crossroads", "New Beginning", and "Telling Stories". She is a multi-platinum and four-time Grammy Award-winning artist.
Chapman was signed to Elektra Records by Bob Krasnow in 1987. The following year she released her critically acclaimed debut album Tracy Chapman, which became a multi-platinum worldwide hit. The album garnered Chapman six Grammy Award nominations, including Album of the Year, three of which she won, including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her single "Fast Car", and Best New Artist. Chapman released her second album Crossroads the following year, which garnered her an additional Grammy nomination. Since then, Chapman has experienced further success with six more studio albums, which include her multi-platinum fourth album New Beginning, for which she won a fourth Grammy Award, for Best Rock Song, for its lead single "Give Me One Reason". Chapman's most recent release is Our Bright Future, in 2008.
Chapman was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She was raised by her mother, who recognized her love of music and, despite not having much money, bought her daughter a ukulele when she was just three years old. Chapman began playing the guitar and writing songs at the age of eight. She says that she may have been first inspired to play the guitar by the television show Hee Haw.
Raised as a Baptist, Chapman attended an Episcopal high school and was accepted into the program A Better Chance, which sponsors students at college preparatory high schools away from their home community. She graduated from Wooster School in Connecticut, then attended Tufts University, graduating with a B.A. degree in Anthropology and African studies.
During college, Chapman began busking in Harvard Square and playing guitar in Club Passim, the Nameless Coffeehouse, and other coffeehouses in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She made her major-stage debut as an opening act for women's music pioneer Linda Tillery at Boston's Strand Theater on May 3, 1985. Another Tufts student, Brian Koppelman, heard Chapman playing and brought her to the attention of his father, Charles Koppelman. Koppelman, who ran SBK Publishing, signed Chapman in 1986. After Chapman graduated from Tufts in 1987, he helped her to sign a contract with Elektra Records.
At Elektra, she released Tracy Chapman (1988). The album was critically acclaimed, and she began touring and building a fanbase. "Fast Car" began its rise on the US charts soon after she performed it at the televised Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert in June 1988; it became a number 6 pop hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending August 27, 1988. Rolling Stone ranked the song number 167 on their 2010 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". It is the highest-ranking song both written and performed by a female performer. "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution", the follow-up, charted at number 75 and was followed by "Baby Can I Hold You", which peaked at number 48. The album sold well, going multi-platinum and winning three Grammy Awards, including an honor for Chapman as Best New Artist. Later in 1988, Chapman was a featured performer on the worldwide Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Tour. According to the VH1 website, "Her album helped usher in the era of political correctness--along with 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M., Chapman's liberal politics proved enormously influential on American college campuses in the late '80s."
Her follow-up album Crossroads (1989) was less commercially successful, but still achieved platinum status. By 1992's Matters of the Heart, Chapman was playing to a small and devoted audience. Her fourth album New Beginning (1995) proved successful, selling over three million copies in the U.S. The album included the hit single "Give Me One Reason", which won the 1997 Grammy for Best Rock Song and became Chapman's most successful single to date, peaking at Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Following a four-year hiatus, her fifth album, Telling Stories, was released in 2000. Its hit single, "Telling Stories", received heavy airplay on European radio stations and on Adult Alternative and Hot AC stations in the United States. Chapman toured Europe and the US in 2003 in support of her sixth album, Let It Rain (2002).
To support her seventh studio album, Where You Live (2005), Chapman toured major US cities in October and throughout Europe over the remainder of the year. The "Where You Live" tour was extended into 2006; the 28-date European tour featured summer concerts in Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, Finland, Norway, the UK, Russia and more. On June 5, 2006, she performed at the 5th Gala of Jazz in Lincoln Center, New York, and in a session at the 2007 TED (Technology Entertainment Design) conference in Monterey, California.
Atlantic Records released Chapman's eighth studio album, Our Bright Future (2008). Chapman made a 26-date solo tour of Europe. She returned to tour Europe and selected North American cities during the summer of 2009. She was backed by Joe Gore on guitars, Patrick Warren on keyboards, and Dawn Richardson on percussion.
Chapman performed Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" on one of the final episodes of the Late Show with David Letterman in April 2015. The performance became a viral hit and was the focus of various news articles including some by Billboard and The Huffington Post.
On November 20, 2015, Chapman released her Greatest Hits album. Consisting of 18 tracks including the live version of "Stand By Me", the album is Chapman's first global compilation release.
Chapman is a politically and socially active musician. In a 2009 interview with American radio network NPR, she said, "I'm approached by lots of organizations and lots of people who want me to support their various charitable efforts in some way. And I look at those requests and I basically try to do what I can. And I have certain interests of my own, generally an interest in human rights." She has performed at numerous socially aware events, and continues to do so. In 1988, she performed in London as part of a worldwide concert tour to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Amnesty International. The same year Chapman also performed in the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, an event which raised money for South Africa's Anti-Apartheid Movement and seven children's charities. In 2004, Chapman performed (and rode) in the AIDS/LifeCycle event.
Chapman has also been involved with Cleveland's elementary schools. A music video produced by Chapman that highlights significant achievements in African-American history has become an important teaching tool in Cleveland Public Schools. Chapman also agreed to sponsor a "Crossroads in Black History" essay contest for high school students in Cleveland and other cities.
Chapman received an honorary doctorate from Saint Xavier University in Chicago in 1997. In 2004, Chapman was given an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts by her alma mater, Tufts University, recognizing her commitment to social activism.
I'm fortunate that I've been able to do my work and be involved in certain organizations, certain endeavors, and offered some assistance in some way. Whether that is about raising money or helping to raise awareness, just being another body to show some force and conviction for a particular idea. Finding out where the need is - and if someone thinks you're going to be helpful, then helping.-- Tracy Chapman
Although Chapman has never publicly disclosed her sexual orientation, during the mid-1990s she was in a relationship with writer Alice Walker. Chapman maintains a strong separation between her personal and professional life. "I have a public life that's my work life and I have my personal life", she said. "In some ways, the decision to keep the two things separate relates to the work I do."
|1988||Billboard Music Awards||Best Female Video||"Fast Car"||Won|
|1989||Soul Train Music Awards||Best R&B/Urban Contemporary Album of the Year, Female||Tracy Chapman||Nominated|
|Danish Music Awards||Best International Album||Won|
|BRIT Awards||Best International Breakthrough Act||Herself||Won|
|Best International Solo Female||Won|
|MTV Video Music Awards||Best Female Video||"Fast Car"||Nominated|
|American Music Awards||Favorite Pop Rock New Artist||Herself||Won|
|Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist||Nominated|
|1993||ECHO Awards||Best International Female||Nominated|
|1996||MTV Video Music Awards||Best Female Video||"Give Me One Reason"||Nominated|
|2001||California Music Awards||Outstanding Female Vocalist||Herself||Nominated|
|2002||IFPI Platinum Europe Music Awards||Album Title||Collection||Won|
|2006||Meteor Ireland Music Awards||Best International Female||Herself||Nominated|
|2009||SXSWi: Web Awards Honor||Pop Music||Herself||Nominated|
|1989||N/A||Best New Artist||Won|
|Tracy Chapman||Album of the Year||Nominated|
|Best Contemporary Folk Album||Won|
|"Fast Car"||Song of the Year||Nominated|
|Record of the Year||Nominated|
|Best Female Pop Vocal Performance||Won|
|1990||Crossroads||Best Contemporary Folk Album||Nominated|
|1997||New Beginning||Best Pop Album||Nominated|
|"Give Me One Reason"||Song of the Year||Nominated|
|Record of the Year||Nominated|
|Best Female Rock Vocal Performance||Nominated|
|Best Rock Song||Won|
|2010||Our Bright Future||Best Contemporary Folk Album||Nominated|
|Awards and achievements|
| Grammy Award for Best New Artist
Milli Vanilli (Award later revoked)
for "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)"
| Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
for "Fast Car"
for "Nick of Time"
for Unfinished Business
| Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album
for Tracy Chapman
for Indigo Girls
Glen Ballard and Alanis Morissette
for "You Oughta Know"
| Grammy Award for Best Rock Song
for "Give Me One Reason"
for "One Headlight"