Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Tracy Chapman

Partly because of the songs she sings (issue-oriented) and the style in which she sings them (folky) - but mainly because she hasn't emerged from some music industry cookie cutter, instead earning her cred performing on the coffee-house circuit of Cambridge, Massachusetts, while attending Tufts University - Tracy Chapman was never going to have one of those Top 40 careers; still, to those who admire her work (like the Pop Culture Institute) her every smoky utterance is a welcome dose of content in an increasingly content-free world.

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1964, Tracy Chapman's first big media exposure was her performance at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute in 1988, following which her first single Fast Car - from her debut album, Tracy Chapman (1988) - drove straight to the top of the charts and parked there; Give Me One Reason, from her fourth release New Beginning (1995), was a bonafide smash, and remains her biggest single to date in terms of sales. Since then she has remained consistent, retaining her cadre of loyal fans by writing thoughtful lyrics and elegant melodies well-played and beautifully sung.

Eight albums and twenty years later, Tracy Chapman still tours extensively, rarely gives interviews - the one at left, for Rolling Stone, being a remarkable exception - and continues to work on behalf of causes dear to her, namely AIDS and human rights; in 2006 Chapman was outed by novelist Alice Walker, who discussed Chapman's relationship with Walker's daughter in The Guardian.

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