CMA Awards: Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ Named Song of the Year

Tracy Chapman won song of the year at the Country Music Awards on Wednesday for “Fast Car,” a folk ballad that topped the country charts more than three decades after it was first released thanks to a cover by the singer Luke Combs.

Chapman, 59, is the first Black songwriter to win that award, Rolling Stone Magazine reported. She did not attend the awards ceremony in Nashville but thanked the crowd in a statement that was read onstage by Sarah Evans, a co-presenter of the award.

“It’s truly an honor for my song to be newly recognized after 35 years of its debut,” Chapman’s statement said. “Thank you to the C.M.A.s and a special thanks to Luke and all of the fans of ‘Fast Car.’”

Combs, an unassuming star known for his irrepressibly catchy and relatable country anthems, also won single of the year for “Fast Car.” He began his acceptance speech on Wednesday by thanking Chapman for writing “one of the best songs of all time.”

“I just recorded it because I love this song so much,” he said. “It’s meant so much to me throughout my entire life.”

The original version of the song reached No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1988. It won Chapman three Grammy Award nominations in 1989, including for song of the year. She won for best female pop vocalist.

Combs’s cover climbed to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in September, after 19 weeks in the No. 2 spot. It also reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 chart over the summer.

As covers go, the vocals and acoustic guitar riffs on Combs’s version hew relatively closely to those on the original “Fast Car.” But other elements, including his North Carolina twang and a pedal steel guitar, give it more of a country feel.

Combs was not the first artist to cover the song by a long shot, but the success of his version this year has been a catalyst for many young people to discover Ms. Chapman’s music.

Nominations for the Grammy Awards, the premiere prize for popular music, will be announced on Friday, and industry watchers are waiting to see if Chapman will be among the nominees for “Fast Car” because of the cover.

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