Fast Car by Tracy Chapman: everything about “Fast Car”


Fast Car is Tracy Chapman’s most popular song: written in 1986 it’s one of the last song she wrote before recording her first album, known under the name of The Debut Album, it’s also her biggest hit worlwide. Learn everything about Fast Car in this article!


Introduction to Fast Car

fast car single width=Soon after she performed Fast Car at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert on June 11, 1988, Chapman’s song began its rise on the US charts; it became a Number 6 pop hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending August 27, 1988. While it’s her biggest hit in the USA, Fast Car didn’t release as a single worldwide. In France for instance, it wasn’t even air on the radio, maybe because cars are not that much into French culture (but the Revolution is, that would explain the Talkin’Bout A Revolution success in this country). Fast Car won the “Best Pop Vocal Performance Female” 1989 Grammy Awards (and was nominated that same year for the  Song of the Year “Fast Car”).

Many many fans can relate to this song (if you’re not convinced then buy this Dear Tracy book) and for most of them, it remains the song that made them know Tracy Chapman. Not a day without hundreds of people mentioning Fast Car on Twitter, not a day without someone purchasing this song on iTunes.

If you attend a Tracy Chapman concert hoping that she will sing it then you will be lucky, Fast Car is always included to the setlist. Waiting for this bright day, look at live videos of Tracy Chapman singing Fast Car live.

If you love Fast Car, then share this page on Twitter or Facebook or like the dedicated Facebook pageFacebook. Help this song to be even more known!

Fast Car meaning: Tracy Chapman talks about “Fast Car”

Tracy Chapman talked about Fast Car on the BBC radio in 2010: “In United States, “Fast Car” was the song that was played on the radio, more than “Talkin’Bout A Revolution” so it was something that turned out to take a significant role in shaping my first record and probably the public perception of me as a singer songwriter who is writing about stories, songs which tells stories about people lives and very generally represents the world that I saw it when I was growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, coming from a working class background. I’ve raised by single mom, I was just watching people, being in a community of people who were struggling. So everyone was really just 1. Working hard 2. hoping that things would get better.

In part everything that a person writes is autobiographical but the songs are directly so and most of them were not and Fast Car wasn’t one that was directly autobiographical. I never had a Fast Car, it’s just a story about a couple, how they are trying to make a life together and they face challenges.

I definitely felt the emotionality of the song that there were something… You never know how other people are going to respond to it and this is not that relevant but one thing I remember about writing the song that it was late in the evening and at the time I had a small dog, a Miniature Dachshund, and the dog was staying up with me. She didn’t always stay up if I stayed up late, I think she was sitting on the couch right next to me, when I first started writing the music and the first few lyrics, I think the first part of the song that came to me was the first line “You’ve got a fast car…” I just feel that I remember in a way that she seemed to be more procked up than usual. So I don’t know if she felt my energy or if she was just not as tired as she normally was but it was kind of funny to have her there for the process of the beginning of writing that song

fast car videoI had so many people come up to me and say that they felt it was their song and someone told me at one point that they thought I’ve been reading their mail, they were saying “You seem to know my story” and people would come up and tell me about a car relationship and some detail that they felt was in the song that represented something that happened in their lives.

On March 25, 1996 Tracy Chapman was telling to CIDR : “I believe that I wrote the song “Fast Car” in 1986. At the time that I wrote the song, I actually didn’t really know who I was writing about. Looking back at it, and this happens with other songs as well, that I feel like I understand it only later… I think that it was a song about my parents… And about how when they met each other they were very young and they wanted to start a news life together and my mother was anxious to leave home. My parents got married and went out into the world to try to make a place for themselves and it was very difficult going.

My mother didn’t have a high school diploma and my father was a few years older. It was hard for him to create the kind of life that he dreamed of… With the education that he had…. With the opportunities that were available to him… In a sense I think they came together thinking that together they would have a better chance at making it”

Fast Car meaning: fans give their own interpretation of the song

You can read some other interesting opinions on

Official Music Video: “Fast Car”

This video was shot by Matt Mahurin in 1988 (he’s also the one who took the picture of Tracy’s Debut Album cover) was nominated to the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards as Best Female Video. The video didn’t win but is still heavily aired on MTV:

Fast Car Lyrics © Tracy Chapman, 1986

In the original edition of Tracy Chapman’s debut album (LP / Cassette / CD), all lyrics were printed in English but also translated into French, Spanish, German and Italian. A very good way to have her message understood by everyone. Read Fast Car lyrics translated in other languages

Original lyrics in English

You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Anyplace is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we’ll make something
But me myself I got nothing to prove

You got a fast car
And I got a plan to get us out of here
I been working at the convenience store
Managed to save just a little bit of money
We won’t have to drive too far
Just ‘cross the border and into the city
You and I can both get jobs
And finally see what it means to be living

You see my old man’s got a problem
He live with the bottle that’s the way it is
He says his body’s too old for working
I say his body’s too young to look like his
My mama went off and left him
She wanted more from life than he could give
I said somebody’s got to take care of him
So I quit school and that’s what I did

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

I remember we were driving driving in your car
The speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
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

You got a fast car
And we go cruising to entertain ourselves
You still ain’t got a job
And I work in a market as a checkout girl
I know things will get better
You’ll find work and I’ll get promoted
We’ll move out of the shelter
Buy a big house and live in the suburbs

You got a fast car
And I got a job that pays all our bills
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
So take your fast car and keep on driving

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

Fast Car in the Charts

Chart in 1988
  • Peak Position 1 – Canada RPM Top 100 Singles
  • Peak Position 1 – Irish Singles Chart
  • Peak Position 2 – Mega Top 50
  • Peak Position 9 – Swedish Singles Char
  • Peak Position 5 – UK Singles Chart
  • Peak Position 6 – US Billboard Hot 100
  • Peak Position 2 – Singapore Get Ready! Top 20
Chart in 2007
  • Peak Position 93 – UK Singles Chart
Chart in 2010
  • Peak Position 57 – UK Singles Chart
Chart  in 2011
  • Peak Position 4 – UK Singles Chart

Fast Car Covers

“Fast Car” is one of the most covered Tracy Chapman song with “Baby Can I Hold You” and “Give Me One Reason”. In 2011, “Fast Car” knew a big revival, with Justin Bieber singing it at the Live Lounge:

Khalid also covered Fast Car in the Live Lounge

Be aware too that those singers/bands also covered “Fast Car”: Boyce Avenue and Kina Grannis Vertical Horizon, Xiu Xiu, Kristian Leontiou, Wayne Wonder, David Usher, Christian Kane…


  1. coulibaly jocelyne on

    j’aime toute ces chanson elle chante très bien et elle me plaie beaucoup.

  2. Leonard Marks on

    Is it her singing on the Liberty Mutual commercial?

    Is she still recording?

    Is she still touring?

  3. I just love tracy her music keeps me strong where could she be, make a come back pliz.A real poet.I wish u were born in kenya.