Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

tracyBorn in Cleveland, Ohio, Tracy Chapman began playing guitar and writing songs at the age of eleven. She was accepted into A Better Chance, the national resource for identifying, recruiting and developing leaders among academically gifted students of color, which enabled her to attend Wooster School in Connecticut, and was eventually accepted to Tufts University.

In May 2004, Tufts honored her with an honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, for her contributions as a socially conscious and artistically accomplished musician.

Fast Car

The song’s narrative is complex and evolving, telling a tale of generational poverty. The song’s narrator tells the tale of her hard life, which began when she quit school to look after her father, who was unable to work any longer- however, the mother decided to leave him, due to the fact that he was an alcoholic and that she wanted more out of life. Eventually, she decides to leave her small dead-end town with her partner in hopes of making a better life for themselves. Despite obtaining employment and being able to pay off the bills, they are ultimately unable to break the cycle, and her life begins to take an ironic twist when her own partner remains largely unemployed and becomes a heavy drinker who spends more nights at the bar with his friends than he does with his own children. Rather than abandoning him and her children (much like how her own mother did in her childhood), she vows that she’ll stay behind, claiming that she’s “got no plans and ain’t going nowhere”; but in saying this, she also gives her partner an ultimatum: decide whether to stay or “take his fast car, and keep on driving”.

Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

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

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 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

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

  • Audio from the 1988 album, Tracy Chapman:

tracy-chapman-album

Play Fast Car - by Tracy Chapman