Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tracy Chapman, The #66 Female Artist of the Rock Era

Tracy Chapman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and her mother, recognizing Tracy's love of music, bought her a ukulele when she was three years old.  Chapman began playing guitar and writing songs at age eight.  She graduated from Wooster School in Connecticut, then graduated from Tufts University with a B.A. degree in anthropology and African studies.

While in college, Chapman began busking in Harvard Square and playing guitar in several coffeehouses in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  A fellow student at Tufts, Brian Koppelman, heard Chapman and brought her to the attention of his father, Charles, who managed SBK Publishing.  Koppelman signed Chapman in 1986 and after Tracy's graduation from Tufts in 1987, she signed a recording contract with Elektra Records.

In 1988, Tracy released the debut album Tracy Chapman, which was highly-acclaimed and a stunning first release.  She began touring, and "Fast Car" ignited after Chapman performed it on the televised Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute in June.  The song reached #6.

Chapman's amazing work earned her six Grammy nominations and three trophies.  Tracy was honored with the Best New Artist award, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (for "Fast Car"), and Best Contemporary Folk Recording.  She was also nominated for both Song of the Year and Record of the Year for her great song "Fast Car" and the LP was nominated for Album of the Year.  

"Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution" was the highly-underrated second single release.  It peaked at #75.

"Baby Can I Hold You' peaked at #48.

But for any album of this stature, singles don't tell the whole story.  We will feature five other outstanding tracks on the album.  This is "Across The Lines".

Searing lyrics that tell the story of a world most don't see.  Here's Tracy's "Behind The Wall".

Lyrics of so much depth, sung by an amazing talent.  Tracy was also honored to receive the American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock New Artist, and she was also nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist after just one year.  This is "For My Lover".

Chapman also won a Billboard Music Award for Best Video.  Her debut release also included "If Not Now".

Another outstanding track on her debut is "For You"

Chapman's debut was so incredible that she never matched it again.  Still, the follow-up album Crossroads in 1989 reached Platinum status.  Once again, Chapman was nominated at the Grammys for Best Contemporary Folk Recording.  The title song only reached #90, but the album also contained this great track.  

By 1992, Chapman's fan base was small but extremely devoted.  She included this gem on her album Matters of the Heart.

We salute Tracy by featuring the title song from that album:

 In 1995, the album New Beginning included the single "Give Me One Reason", which shot up to #3, remained on the chart for 39 weeks, and sold over two million copies.  The song captured the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song and was nominated for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

Chapman was also nominated for Best Pop Album at the Grammys that year.

After a four-year hiatus, Chapman released the album Telling Stories.  The title song received considerable airplay in Europe and on Adult Alternative and AC stations in the U.S.  In 2002, Chapman toured both continents in support of the album Let It Rain.  

If you love her work, you should check out her other albums that include Where You Live in 2005 and Our Bright Future in 2008.  The latter received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

Chapman works closely 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 the area's public schools.  Chapman also sponsors a "Crossroads in Black History" essay contest for high school students in Cleveland and other cities.

In 2004, Chapman was awarded an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts by her Alma mater, Tufts University, recognizing her commitment to social activism.

An artist of amazing depth and talent, Tracy is known by the masses for her huge hits "Fast Car" and "Give Me One Reason", but she is so much more than that.  She has won four Grammy Awards out of 14 nominations, one American Music Award and one Billboard Music Award.  She has sold over 13 million albums in the U.S. alone and over 18 million worldwide.

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