Tracy Chapman knew exactly how she wanted to bring her duet with Luke Combs to life at the 2024 Grammys.
“She had a vision, and she asked Luke his thoughts,” Combs’ manager, Chris Kappy, told Rolling Stone in a Friday, February 9, interview. “Then they just kept running through it and running through it. It was a fun way to watch two artists create the moment that we were going to have all together on the Grammys.”
Chapman, 59, and Combs, 33, teamed up at the February 4 ceremony to perform Chapman’s 1988 hit “Fast Car.” Combs’ cover of the song, which served as the second single off his fourth studio album, Gettin’ Old, has dominated the country music charts since it hit airwaves in 2023. It has also earned countless awards accolades, including a nomination for Best Country Solo Performance at this year’s Grammys.
Combs and Chapman ultimately decided to perform the original version the song after spending just 20 minutes talking before their first run-through. It required Combs to sing in a lower key, but according to Happy, the musician wasn’t concerned with the changes.
“All of this was done to honor the amazing woman, songwriter, and artist that she is,” he said. “The entire opportunity for us to even be on a stage with Tracy Chapman is what this was all about.”
Their duet also marked the first time Chapman and Combs had met in person — and Chapman’s first award show in years.
“[Tracy and Luke] were supported by key people behind the scenes — including David Kershenbaum, who produced Tracy’s debut album — and, together, the collective experience and talent present in that room created a unique and beautiful new version of this beloved song,” Chapman’s friend and Nonesuch Records SVP, Matthew Rankin, told the outlet, calling it a “significant and emotional moment” for everyone involved.
“Ultimately, the performance speaks for itself,” Rankin continued. “Especially the interaction between Tracy and Luke and their expressions, which tells you all you need to know about the way they were feeling.”
Rankin noted all involved knew they were “working toward something special” when crafting the moment, which ended up being “everything” the musicians hoped it would be. “The subsequent response has been incredible, exceeding our expectations in so many ways,” he added.
Following Combs and Chapman’s captivating performance — which earned a standing ovation from the Grammys audience — the original version of “Fast Car” shot to the No. 1 position on iTunes’ Top Song charts, beating out Combs’ own Grammy-nominated rendition of the song.
During its initial release, “Fast Car” peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. At the time, it was nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 1989 Grammys, winning the latter. Chapman’s self-titled album was also up for Album of the Year. It ultimately lost to George Michael’s Faith, but took home Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Chapman told Billboard in July 2023 that she was happy to see that Combs’ version of “Fast Car” was introducing the song to new listeners.
“I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honored to be there,” she said. “I’m happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.’”
Combs, meanwhile, told the outlet he was thrilled Chapman was getting a new wave of recognition from the cover. “The success of my cover is unreal and I think it’s so cool that Tracy is getting recognized and has reached new milestones,” he said. “I love that she is out there feeling all the love and that she gave me a shout-out! Thank you, Tracy!”
After making waves at the Grammys, Combs took to social media to express his gratitude to Chapman.
“I’ll have more to say about last night when I’ve had the chance to process it,” he wrote via his Instagram Stories alongside a photo of the pair on stage. “All I can say now is thank you Tracy and thank you @recordingacademy for letting me be a part of a truly remarkable moment. I’m very thankful.’”