This is an opinion from the center.

Luke Combs recently released a cover of Tracy Chapman’s song “Fast Car.” His cover sits at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Why does “Fast Car” continue to resonate with Americans across differences?

The Original “Fast Car”

Chapman initially released “Fast Car” in 1988. Her performance of it at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute in London, helped propel the song to the top of the charts, where it peaked at t #6 in the U.S. and #4 in the UK.


“Fast Car” is about wanting to break out of poverty and aspiring to be something more. 

Starting from zero, got nothing/ to lose/Maybe we'll make something.

It’s about the pursuit of a dream from the perspective of the lower class, sung originally by a black queer woman. 

The Luke Combs Cover


Some on the left have argued that a white man launching Chapman’s song to the top of the charts complicates things. Holly G, founder of the Black Opry, an organization for Black country music singers and fans, said in part, “It’s hard to really lean into that excitement knowing that Tracy Chapman would not be celebrated in the industry without that kind of middleman being a White man.” Jake Blount, an Afrofuturist folk artist, tweeted “I worry we’re watching [Chapman’s] legacy being overwritten in real-time.”

However, Chapman said of the cover “I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honored to be there. I’m happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.’”

The fact that the song resonates both with the black community in the 80’s, and Luke Combs' predominately white audience forty years later speaks to the resonance of the song across different groups, united by similar class struggles. 

“Fast Car” reaches across time, across racial and gender lines, perhaps political lines too, because everyone relates to the idea of wanting to reach a dream—a life different from one's own, with less stress. For Chapman that dream felt slightly out of reach due to barriers from class, race, gender, and sexuality. For many today the same barriers persist, and the song clearly resonates.

It emphasizes the journey toward a positive vision, irrespective of current social, political, racial, or economic barriers. 

You'll find work and I'll get promoted/ And we'll move out of the shelter/ Buy a bigger house and live in the suburbs… And I had a feeling that I belonged/ I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

This positive vision of the future is increasingly rare in today’s internet landscape where fear and anger frequently gain clicks. Still, the success of “Fast Car” is a reminder that most of us have the same values — we all want to be fulfilled by our jobs, family, and friends in safe and supportive communities. “Fast Car,” whether Chapman’s or Combs’ version, shows how art continues to unite us around these shared values. 

Clare Ashcraft (Center bias) is the Bridging and Bias Specialist at AllSides. 

Reviewed by Joseph Ratliff, Daily News Editor (Lean Left bias), Isaiah Anthony, Deputy Blog Editor, (Center bias), Andy Gorel, News Curator (Center bias), and Johnathon Held, Bias Analyst (Lean Right bias).