Tracy Chapman stole the show at the Grammys. Here are 3 other rare performances from the singer
When she appeared on stage, strumming the familiar riff on her guitar, the reaction in the audience was explosive. And then she began to sing
With a slew of emotional moments and surprises — including a first-ever Grammy Awards performance from 80-year-old folk legend Joni Mitchell and an unexpected appearance from Celine Dion, who was recently diagnosed with stiff person syndrome — it shouldn’t be too surprising that this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony was a ratings success.
Nearly 17 million people tuned in to the 2024 Grammy Awards ceremony on Feb. 4 — marking a 34% increase from last year and the highest viewership since 2020, Variety reported. But of all the moments in the 3 1/2 hour production, one of the most talked about — if not the most talked about — has been the “Fast Car” duet between Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs.
About the Tracy Chapman, Luke Combs ‘Fast Car’ Grammy performance
The hype surrounding the performance was for good reason: Chapman released her last album in 2008, and since concluding her last tour in 2009, she has only performed publicly three times, per Variety. A few days before the 2024 awards ceremony, reports began circulating that Chapman and Combs, who revitalized “Fast Car” and rode it to the top of the country charts last year, would share the stage for a special performance of the song.
The potential moment would mark 35 years since Chapman performed the song solo at the 1989 Grammy Awards. At that ceremony, “Fast Car” earned Chapman the Grammy for best female pop vocal performance; the singer-songwriter also took home the awards for best new artist and best contemporary folk recording, according to Grammy.com.
A duet between Chapman and Combs would also represent the multigenre and multigenerational appeal of the song — Combs, who has said “Fast Car” was the first favorite song he ever had, wasn’t even born when Chapman released it.
But Chapman was not officially listed as a performer for the 2024 Grammy Awards ceremony, per The San Fransisco Chronicle. So when she appeared on stage, strumming the familiar riff on her guitar, the reaction in the audience was explosive. And then she began to sing.
Chapman and Combs took turns singing verses and sang together on the chorus. The entire time, Chapman beamed and Combs seemed in awe that the performance was even happening.
As Combs’ longtime manager, Chris Kappy, told Rolling Stone, it was important to Combs that Chapman had complete creative control of the moment. The performance featured a few of Chapman’s longtime friends and original “Fast Car” recording musicians, including drummer Denny Fongheiser and bassist Larry Klein, Rolling Stone reported.
Following the performance, Chapman’s original version of “Fast Car” rose to the top of iTunes, as did her debut album, “Tracy Chapman.”
The duet led to headlines like “Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs made musical magic,” and “A rare moment all Americans could share” in The Atlantic. The New York Times wrote that “Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs gave America a rare gift: Harmony.”
What has Tracy Chapman been up to? A look at her rare performances
The massive success of the duet has people wondering: What has Chapman been up to over the past 15 years?
As The New York Times reported, the singer-songwriter keeps a low profile in San Fransisco — to the extent that some people in San Fransisco were surprised to discover Chapman lives there. Aside from a few performances, she’s largely stayed out of the music world. And her public appearances — including being a juror for the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, per Variety — have been few and far between.
Following Chapman’s surprise Grammy performance, here’s a look at her three other public performances since concluding her last tour in 2009.
2012 — Celebrating Buddy Guy at the Kennedy Center Honors
In a ceremony that also celebrated David Letterman, Dustin Hoffman and members of Led Zeppelin, Chapman paid tribute to blues guitarist Buddy Guy at the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors. Her bluesy performance of “Hound Dog” had Barack and Michelle Obama shaking their heads in rhythm and Guy grinning ear-to-ear.
At the ceremony, Chapman also joined fellow artists Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Beck and Beth Hart in honoring Guy with a performance of “Sweet Home Chicago.”
2015 — Performing ‘Stand By Me’ on ‘Late Show with David Letterman’
In 2015, Chapman appeared on one of Letterman’s final shows to sing one of his favorite songs, “Stand By Me.”
“To hear Tracy Chapman sing that song is heaven,” Letterman said of the Ben E. King classic.
With just her voice and a guitar — no backup — Chapman delivered a performance that had Letterman emotional.
“It means a great deal to me,” he said after the performance. “I’m so happy you could do this for us.”
2020 — ‘Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution’ on ‘Late Night With Seth Meyers’
Although it wasn’t a live performance, Chapman recorded a special rendition of “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution,” a song from her debut album, for an episode of “Late Night with Seth Meyers” that aired the night before the 2020 election.
According to the music site Pitchfork, Chapman tweaked the final lines of the song for her performance: “Talkin’ ’bout a revolution/Go vote,” she sang, with the word “Vote” appearing behind her.
A video of the performance can be found on the Pitchfork website.