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Dear Kay,

Last summer Luke Combs, one of the hottest stars in country music, released his version of “Fast Car,” the song by Tracy Chapman that has haunted us all since 1988.

I was crushed.

How dare he take this perfect song and make it country! Who does he think he is, mooching this exquisite song? The nerve of that guy!

Well, on Sunday he showed up at the Grammys to sing it.

With Tracy Chapman.

Why did she agree to do this, given that she apparently rarely performs in front of big audiences?

I’m guessing she understood how this would play.

What a generous act to show up and show us “I’m OK with Luke Combs, the burliest country dude ever, singing my song.” And it’s not just because of the pile of mailbox money coming her way, now that her song had a months-long visit to the top of the country charts.

In the introduction to their performance, Luke Combs said that his dad had played the song often when Luke was young, that he’d had the song in his head forever: “That song, ‘Fast Car,’ was my favorite song before I even knew what a favorite song was.” He recorded it because it lived in his head.

This whole thing reminds me of Whitney Houston singing Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” Jumping genres is one of the great things about music. Cross-pollination is how stuff grows.

There was something healing about their performance on Sunday. It was beautiful to see.

Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” from 1988 is here.

And then . . .

Joni Mitchell singing “Both Sides Now.” I’d seen her 2022 Newport Folk Festival performance with Brandi Carlile, so this was a moment to savor again.

Did you see these performances?



PS Full recordings of the Grammy performances aren’t available yet—I’ll add links if I find them.


  • Omg the Combs Champman duet was the best thing I’ve seen in a long time ! Combs’ cover must have played 5 times an hour on the station the lifeguards tune into at the our local this past year. And every time I heard it irritated me. You describe that reaction how the duet dissolved it for me perfectly, Ann. Thanks. I just hope Chapman had gotten her full royalties.

  • This is the longest I could find so far. I hope this link works.

  • Sorry for the redundancy. I posted this same comment when not signed in. So came back to sign in so the comment didn’t have to “await moderation”.

    This is the longest version I have found so far. Enjoy.

    • I went in and approved these so I could reply…but the MDK site puts ALL comments with links in them into “awaiting moderation” status, regardless of whether you are signed in or not. Because we have like one-fifth of one employee doing the jobs of ninety people, it sometime takes a while; sometimes comments remain unapproved forever!

  • This was a beautiful moment. Luke’s lead up to the song was perfect. To see Tracey with her eyes almost leaking on stage singing her song with the audience joining in and Luke watching carefully in awe of her and silently singing along on her parts. Such a special artistic blend and thanks to a thoughtful camera crew we were able to be in that intimate space.

  • I agree- between the Fast Car duet, and then Joni Mitchell, I had a tough time seeing my knitting through my tears!!!

    • Totally agree! This was a special Grammys broadcast. Women rocked! It was good to see Billy Joel again, too.

  • Love, love, love this!! I thought I read somewhere that this Luke guy wrote to Tracy and asked permission to cover the song. Maybe I am making that up??

  • I had prepared myself for Joni Mitchell and knew what to expect when she came to claim her flowers, but Tracy … Tracy was a surprise, and she was transcendent. Also wonderful to see Annie Lennox paying tribute to Sinead O’Connor and Prince with Wendy and Lisa.

  • I was on the phone during Luke Combs’ segment but pinned to my seat with Joni Mitchell. Couldn’t get enough of her (more my era) and loved that she got a standing ovation.

  • Both of those performances were worth watching the whole show! And yes yes yes, when those are available for download, I am totally getting them! They are so a part of my memories.

  • With Traci Chapman to begin, the indomitable Joni Mitchell, and Billy Joel on the piano to close, the storytellers ruled the Grammys and showed the youngsters how it is done.

    • Yes!

  • He never changed a word. Sang it as it was written. So so many students I’ve worked with through my life could/have sung that song in their hearts and their deeds. That was a great moment to watch on tv.

  • Exactly! Ann, that’s exactly how I felt, about both. Thanks for saying it so well.

  • Thanks so much for sharing the links – a moving performance.

    And Joni Mitchell. Wow.

  • Excluding old Country Swing, DH isn’t a fan of country music. When I told him that a singer, Luke Combs, had just released a fabulous, honest rendition of DH’s all time favorite song by Tracy Chapman, he was incredulous. A few days later, I was in the car when “Fast Car” came on our local country station. I pulled over, called DH and put him on speaker phone so he could hear it. He loved it and has been willing to listen to the station ever since for the chance to hear Luke’s version, which literally transports him to another time. Tracy and Luke’s duet on Sunday was marvelous and, to me, proved the true beauty of the magic of music.

  • I must say I was so overwhelmed by seeing Tracy Chapman singing live I completely blocked out Luke Combs. As far as Joni, the Newport Folk special on PBS was A most precious moment in my life!

  • I was SOooooo skeptical when I heard that some country dude had recorded that song. So I went to youTube and listened. It was great. Art goes deep.

  • Ann, I had exactly the same thoughts you did when I learned that ‘someone’ had done a remake of Fast Car and was SO glad when I saw Tracy on stage with Luke because I then realized that Luke’s song was ‘Tracy approved’. And who was I to argue with that!?

  • Two wonderful musicians who continue to gift us with their creative force by supporting younger musicians and showing us how to keep on keeping on!

  • Yes and Yes!!! I was deeply moved by Tracy Chapman and Joni Mitchell. “Never give up” was the theme for the night; and Billy Joel writing a song after 17 years?!
    People and the spirit of creativity are truly amazing and inspiring.

  • Truly, I have a different take on Luke Combs presentation. What an honor to bring Tracy Chapman’s song to a group of music lovers who may not have otherwise heard it play because they weren’t alive when it was originally released.
    We as artist do this all the time with little vignettes in a painting; with nods to chords of a song that may have been popular 50 100 years ago; by quoting an obscure line from a movie until it becomes a main stay in our lives. Folk tales and fairytales down the acres have used this method.
    Me think your comment about nerve is a bit tongue in cheek, and I love you for it.

  • Echoing all you say here Ann, and adding a link to Tracy Chapman duetting with another burly singer, a long while ago. It’s marvelous:

    • Awesome!!

    • OMG! Not someone I would have expected! (I suspect a lot of people will be playing Tracy Chapman songs this week!)

  • I didn’t get to watch the whole show. But I did see Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs. (I admit, I already thought that Luke’s version was worthy. He rally got it.). And I thought, ‘it can’t get any better than this. Not saying Joni Mitchell and Billy Joel couldn’t be just as good, just that Chapman and Combs were wonderful. You could see why she approved of him doing it.

  • Another heartstopping cover from an unexpected genre cross, Johnny Cash singing “Hurt” by NIN. A great song could be defined great by its ability to be amazing in the hands of more than one person.

  • I am not a country fan, but the first time I heard Luke Combs sing Fast Car, nostalgia flowed over me and I loved it! Why not bring a great song back, what a fantastic tribute to a great song, so what if it is by a country singer. I want to get out my tape cassette and listen to all her songs, but I don’t have a cassette player anymore. I have the Grammys taped so I can watch this over and over again.

  • When Luke’s version came out, I thought how dare he? But it’s really good, and brings more attention to the original.

  • It was a moment of beauty – everything about it.

  • When “Fast Car” was first playing everywhere, I was living and teaching in a truly poor Indian reservation. My students — and I — loved that song, feeling it represented them completely.

    I had never heard of Luke Combs, and certainly never heard his version. But watching the two of them the other night, tears streaming down my face, I realized how completely “Fast Car” was universal in its appeal. Time travel? Music does it, every time.

  • Fast Car was transcendently beautiful. I loved watching them perform this song together. It was perfect.

  • Combs cover is only good for Chapman. Chapman’s version is currently #1 on iTunes. Combs is #4. Chapman’s “Give me one Reason” is #10. I think his voice is really lovely and he does a great job. Their duet was fabulous. The smile on her beautiful face and his awe of her were tear inducing. Not to mention, it was a song he always listened to with his dad.
    According to Bilboard, Chapman had this to say last July. “I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honored to be there,” Chapman tells Billboard in an exclusive statement. “I’m happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.’”
    I found it interesting that 1-the academy is always criticized for not reaching a younger audience, 2- everyone kept saying how many women were being honored and 3- JayZ talked about showing more respect to black artists. Then they end the show with a bunch of old white MEN playing a song from 40 years ago.

  • Thank you for sharing your love of the artists. It brings me back to memories that I should visit more often.

  • I miss Tracy Chapman’s clear voice singing about life. Thanks for sharing the Grammy moment, Ann.

  • I am not pleased with your choice of words regarding “a pile of money coming her way”. in fact, I think that’s a careless statement to make on a public forum. If you really think Tracy Chapman cares one bit about money then you obviously don’t understand any of her music. You also don’t understand musicians. At their very soul level they are very happy to share tricks of the trade and help each other grow.

    • You can tell from her songs that Tracy Chapman has a beautiful soul but, like most people, she still wants to be fairly paid for her work. She sued Nicki Minaj when Ms. Minaj sampled her song “”Baby Can I Hold You” without permission, and agreed to a payment by Ms. Minaj of $450,000 to settle the lawsuit. There is nothing offensive about paying musicians what they are due and I, too, am glad she got a pile of money for Luke Combs new record – which she did, because she held on to the publishing rights to “Fast Car”. A great musician and someone who makes sure she is paid for her creations, too: no contradiction there.

      • Thanks for this. Black women are consistently paid less than other entertainers. Fair pay is something to celebrate.

  • I watched the Grammy’s specifically to see Joni Mitchell and I’d read a rumor that Tracy Chapman MIGHT perform with Luke Combs on the song, but I wasn’t prepared for how my heart just exploded when I could see her hands playing those intro chords and then the camera moved to her face. Sooooo beautiful!

  • WOW – Beautiful post. Thank you 🙂

  • I agree about the Traci Chapman’s performance being healing. It felt like all was right with the world for that moment. Thanks for describing it.

  • I didn’t see the performances because I’m currently Down Under. Thank you SOOOO much for sharing. The full performances are up on YouTube. Two of my most favorite artists EVER!!!

  • This is one of those weeks when you are so totally on track with life and how I feel. Thank you.

  • Yes Ann! I also thought the same. Thanks for this post and video clip; and changing my mind for the better, 🙂

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