Tracy Chapman’s rare public appearance at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night — where she practically stole the show by performing her 1988 song “Fast Car” with country singer Luke Combs — left many fans wondering why she largely away from music for more than a decade. .
Despite some scattered performances on television and at awards shows, Chapman, 59, has remained almost entirely absent from the music world in recent years, having released her last studio album in 2008 and going on her last tour in 2009. of the 1980s, she was always known as a solitary and private figure.
“Being in the public eye and in the spotlight was, and still is, to some extent, uncomfortable for me,” she told the Irish Times in 2015. “There are ways in which Everything that happened in my life prepared me for this career. But I’m a little shy.
The praise for her performance at the Grammys — Taylor Swift could be seen singing in the crowd — was a sign of how beloved Chapman remains. Combs’ note-for-note cover of “Fast Car” hit No. 2 on Billboard’s pop singles chart last year, and after the Grammys, Chapman’s original began climbing the chart. iTunes downloads.
After releasing her debut album, “Tracy Chapman,” in 1988 – and reaching No. 1 on the Billboard charts – she released seven more studio albums. His latest, “Our Bright Future”, was released in 2008. Jon Pareles of The New York Times described it as a collection of “mourish love songs” as well as “his latest utopian vision of a world without war and greed “.
What did she do ?
Since then, his appearances have been rare. She performed at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2012, playing with blues guitarist Buddy Guy, who was one of the honorees that year. She appeared at David Letterman’s final concerts in 2015, performing “Stand by Me.” And on the eve of the 2020 presidential election, she appeared on “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” performing “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” from her debut album; after the final notes, she stepped aside to reveal a sign behind her saying “vote.”
Last year, as Combs’ version of “Fast Car” became a surprise hit, the song won Song of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards, making Chapman the first black songwriter to win this prize. (She didn’t seem to accept it.)
A quiet life in San Francisco
Chapman is so private that many San Franciscans were surprised to learn after the Grammys that she lives in their city. She is not part of the social scene or involved in politics, and she seems to mostly avoid major events.
But you can still see it in town. The owner of a bookstore where she sometimes shops posted on X, formerly Twitter, after her Grammys performance that she was “so down to earth in real life” when she was spotted shopping to buy food for your dog at a local pet store. (The post was later deleted.) Others saw her waiting in line at a popular bakery. Before the pandemic, she was a judge for a high school scholarship program run by the founders of “Beach Blanket Babylon,” a now-defunct cabaret.
Lee Houskeeper, a public relations executive and music promoter in San Francisco, said he met with Chapman several times in his studio and rehearsal room. He said she was very nice and they talked about artists they both knew.
State Assemblyman Matt Haney said he only saw her once, at a school board meeting in 2018, when he was on that board. She was there to help the school district name a theater on its property after her friend Sydney Goldstein. It is now home to San Francisco’s popular City Arts & Lectures program.
“She didn’t make a big deal about being there,” Haney recalled in an interview. “I don’t think she even came to the mic.”
Could she come back?
The Grammys performance instantly became a career highlight for Chapman, and it may well fuel demand for her return to recording and touring. This year, she is also nominated for the Songwriters Hall of Fame. If she is inducted – it’s a good bet – it could provide another opportunity for a public appearance.
“There has always been a demand for Tracy Chapman to return to the stage,” Rich McLaughlin, program director of WFUV, a New York radio station that celebrates songwriters, said in an email. “Whether or not this will increase his chances of doing so is difficult to predict, however.”
Longtime Chapman fans may be keeping their fingers crossed, but they’ve also learned to be patient.
“Tracy Chapman is an artist who follows her muse, not market demand,” McLaughlin added. “If she had based her decision solely on demand, she would have started filming again years ago.”
This article was originally published in the New York Times.
Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.boston.com