The hauntingly beautiful folk track "Fast Car," which originally skyrocketed Tracy Chapman to fame in 1988, has been covered by country star Luke Combs. This week, the new rendition surpassed the original on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Hers peaked at No. 6, his is at No. 4.
In a recent interview with Music Mayhem, Combs said he chose to record the cover because the original was his "first favorite song probably ever."
"I remember listening to that song with my dad in his truck when I was probably four years old," Combs added. "He had a cassette, a tape of it, and we had this old brown camper top F-150. We rode around that thing, and he had a tape cassette player in there, and I have the original cassette — my dad brought it to me a couple of years ago… I have the one, and I have it in my shop."
NPR's Stephen Thompson penned an essay about being a fan of Chapman's original as a "small-town kid in the 1980s" and hearing the cover for the first time:
…my partner and I were flipping stations during a drive, landed on a country station and heard the opening strains of "Fast Car," as performed by Luke Combs. We did a bit of hand-fighting over rights to the dial, as my curiosity butted up against her fury at the audacity of a white guy trying to turn "Fast Car" into a country song. We listened, and … damned if Combs doesn't pull it off. He even passed the test I'd set for him the minute I decided to listen: He didn't change the words in the line, "Now I work in the market as a checkout girl." Didn't change the job, didn't change "girl" into a gender-neutral monosyllable like "clerk," just sang the words as written.
What I heard in Combs's cover, and what I keep experiencing as I've revisited it in the weeks since, is my own personal perfect storm of nostalgia — for a moment when country music opened my mind, and when a sheltered kid in Iola, Wis., learned that there are Americans out there who seize their opportunities, work hard and still live in shelters. The plainspoken chorus — "I remember when we were driving / Driving in your car / Speed so fast, it felt like I was drunk / City lights lay out before us / And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder" — felt then like a perfect, universal encapsulation of youth: a headrush of opportunity, joy, escape, connection. I feel that same mix of sensations listening to Combs, coupled with the sense of kinship that comes with knowing that someone else out there grew up with the song and came out feeling the same way.
The original song's music video has gained 67 million views since its debut on YouTube seven years ago:
Luke has been covering the song for at least two years: