Tracy Chapman

A recent NPR All Songs Considered podcasts had me thinking about Tracy Chapman.

Tracy Chapman album cover

It was time to listen again and remind myself what made this album great.

1)     Talkin’ Bout a Revolution

It’s 1988 , Cliff Richard has the best-selling song of the year, Kylie Minogue is the most successful artist in the British charts, but the same year you put this on your turntable. The guitar gently strums until a few seconds later a bold beautiful voice enters. Quiet but strong. A whisper.

2)     Fast Car

How did this become a huge international hit? It’s too good. Expertly constructed, the waves of sound actually express emotion and anger, rather than just ‘that bit in the song where we need drums.’Ultimately a song of great sorrow, she has a plan to get out of the life, but by the end of the song it seems forlorn hope that the fast car will take them there.

3)     Across the Lines

In the back streets of America, they kill the dream of America.Such plaintive crying for the injustice that causes conflict between races.

4)     Behind The Wall

Wife-beating, and the police don’t care.

5)     Baby, Can I Hold You

After all that politics, a heartfelt love song, nailed perfectly. Often the problem with songs and emotions is the terrible tendency to use too many words to say the simple things. No danger here, a very precise evocation of need.

6)     Mountain o’ Things

Social criticism with a bit of sarcasm.

7)     She’s Got Her Ticket

I appreciate the sentiment of this song, how a woman has to leave her birthplace to be a success, though the fake reggae thing doesn’t do it for me.

8)     Why

One of the themes of this album is social justice, another specific to the injustices done to women. This song is a scream at these -why‽

9)     For My Lover

There are no limits that she won’t do for love: climb a mountain, go to jail, be psychoanalysed each day. Is it the inspiration for Meat Loaf?

10)  If Not Now

Another lyrical love song about waiting for the commitment of love. ‘A love declared for days to come is as good as none.’

11)  For You

Final track is a gentle song of love. She is happy to be in love, escaping from intellect and reason. 

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