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A Great Singer-Songwriter And Humanitarian
Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman
Biography and Discography

Listen To "Change"
From "Where You Live"
Release September 13, 2005

by Brittany Lauren Lee and Mark R. Elsis

Renowned African American singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman was born on March 30, 1964. Chapman came from humble beginnings, raised in a working class neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. At an early age, Chapman had already found her calling as a musician. She began by writing poetry, and then at the age of eight she received her first guitar as a gift from her mother. Chapman quickly progressed with the guitar and also learned to play the ukulele and the piano. Her initial interest in poetry developed into a talent for writing her own music. This driven young lady also excelled academically, winning an academic scholarship to attend a private high school in Connecticut followed by a minority placement scholarship which she decided to put towards attending Tufts University in Massachusetts. At Tufts, Chapman studied anthropology and African studies.

It was during her time at college that Tracy Chapman's interest in folk rock and singer-songwriters was forged. Chapman became a regular performer at local Boston coffeehouses, and it wasn't long before her talents were discovered. After hearing a set of demo tapes Chapman had recorded at the local college radio station, an impressed classmate, Brian Koppelman, recommended her to his father Charles, Koppelman, who was head of SBK Publishing. Chapman signed with SBK in 1986 and through them secured a management contract with Elliot Roberts, who was well-known for his work with Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. With the help of both Roberts and Koppelman, Chapman signed with Elektra Records in 1987.

In 1988 Tracy Chapman released her self-titled debut album to shocking commercial and critical success. The album created an instant fan base for the emerging star and is also considered to have had a lasting effect on the music industry. Chapman was one of the only artists at the time to work from the confessional singer/songwriter style. She combined the '70's folk foundation with simple melodies and meaningful lyrics, and her immediate success with the style ushered in an entirely new era of singer/songwriters that continued well into the '90s. Furthermore, Chapman's album became a part of the budding movement towards political correctness, joining 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M. in spreading liberal politics. The liberal views expressed in her album were tremendously influential across college campuses in the later '80s. She became known as a supported of civil liberties and minority rights, as well as gender equality and sexual freedom.

Tracy Chapman begin touring and gaining an even larger following. Within just a few months of the release of her debut album, Chapman performed in the internationally televised concert for Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday. The concert, called Freedomfest, was created by Amnesty International, an organization Chapman continued to support throughout her career. Her performance was enthusiastically greeted with thunderous applause. Her landmark single "Fast Car" begin to climb the charts, peaking at number six, and introducing her to a throng of fans in the pop world. Sales of the album soared along with the single, and by the end of the year over ten million copies sold, making it multi-platinum. The following year, Chapman's record won three Grammy's, including the coveted Best New Artist.

For her follow-up album, Tracy Chapman released Crossroads (1989). The album, which was far more political than her debut and contained darker lyrics, did not reach the level of success as her first. It did, however, garner praise from critics and still went multi-platinum, peaking at number nine on the charts.

Full Biography and Discography