Top 10 Tracy Chapman Songs

Tracy Chapman Songs

Photo: jurvetson from TED (conference) in Monterey, California, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Our Top 10 Tracy Chapman Songs lists introduce us to a Grammy Award-winning female artist whose songwriting and vocals have been core to her success. Her love for music would begin when she possessed a ukulele at age three, only to start playing the guitar beautifully and writing songs five years later. Throughout the years, Tracy Chapman was still enthusiastic about music playing her guitar while writing and singing. She would make her major-stage debut as the opening act for musician Linda Tillery at Boston’s Strand Theater back in 1985.

Koppelman would sign Tracy Chapman to Tufts in 1986, who after graduation guided her to sign for Elektra Records in 1987. By 1988, Tracy Chapman had her eponymous debut album ready for release. Tracy Chapman (1988) received critical acclaim having Tracy begin touring to perform her releases, which helped build a large fanbase. Since her debut album, Tracy Chapman has been a common face in the music industry, releasing hit songs almost in her albums. She is known to separate her personal life from her music profession, which might be a weakness for many artists. Here are the top 10 Tracy Chapman that has been the highlight moment for this award-winning vocalist.

#10 – The Promise

Ushering us to the top 10 Tracy Chapman songs is the hit song “The Promise” from her fourth album. “The Promise” adds to the catalog of songs that helped award Tracy Chapman’s New Beginning numerous album sales. The song is about a lady who misses her lover, wishing that they would spend time together again. Its title is not mentioned anywhere in the lyrics; hence most refer to the song with the opening line “If You Wait For Me.”

#9 – Change

When change comes knocking, not everyone might be willing to take its course, even when the change is positive. Featured on Tracy Chapman’s 2005 album, “Change” is about people who are obstinate to change. She asks what life-changing experience or influence would such people go encounter to accept change for the better. It’s lovely and quite soothing seeing Tracy Chapman play her guitar as she sings this ballad that seems to point to the betterment of humanity through acceptance of the positive change.

#8 – Stand By Me

Tracy Chapman impressed many when she covered Ben E. King’s song “Stand By Me.” Without a doubt, Tracy Chapman can channel her emotions better than many, as evidenced in this song. She performed a heart-stopping rendition as a special send-off to David Letterman. “Stand By Me” was one of Ben E. King’s best songs that helped him gain a solid reputation in his solo career. Tracy Chapman would also make her name with the haunting performance to this moving testimony of Ben E. King’s musical legacy.

#7 – Telling Stories

Released in 2000, “Telling Stories” will be remembered as one of Tracy Chapman’s greatest songs of all time. Thanks to her great voice that she does not struggle with within her songs, the song is quite a gem among other songs. “Telling Stories” brings Tracy Chapman’s poetic songwriting skills to life. The bus in this song symbolizes the road of our lives and how preposterous we seem to be if something takes us out of context. Inside the bus, the characters epitomize the unearthing and concealment of the truth of different aspects of life.

#6 – Bang Bang Bang

Next at number 6 is “Bang Bang Bang” from Tracy Chapman’s third studio album Matters of the Heart. By far, Tracy Chapman seems to be aware of the heartache of the world we live in. She uses “Bang Bang Bang” to talk about the problems of racism, classism, and the ever-present cycle of violence. However, she brings out the fact that we create poverty and force poverty amongst people, and still the same who wonder why they become violent to us.

#5 – Crossroads

Featured on her 1989 second studio album, “Crossroads” presents Tracy Chapman in a somber mood where she reflects on the struggles and pain in life. This perfect opener to her album finds Tracy expressing misgivings over the attention that came with her sudden rise to fame. The song was so great that the posthumous Tupac song featuring Elton John sampled its main riff and melody. “Crossroads” received quite a nice reception having its peak at number 90 on the Billboard Hot 100.

#4 – Talkin’ Bout a Revolution

Released in her debut album, “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” is an empowering political anthem that many of the oppressed reckon. Tracy Chapman penned one of the best lyrics that awarded her immediate critical acclaim despite her young age. “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” is a class warfare song peppered by a strong caution that the poor will rise and take what’s theirs. It remains to be one of the magnificent compositions about working-class life. Tracy Chapman would capture the heart of many when she sang this song on the Nelson Mandela televised 70th Birthday tribute.

#3 – Baby Can I Hold You

“Baby Can I Hold You” is a classic love song that reveals how Tracy Chapman’s conversational lyrics charm a wide-reaching relatability. We all have different expectations and experiences with love. Tracy desired to receive a nice treatment and be looked after. In this song, she expresses that she wishes to maintain an intimate, deep connection with her lover, hearing from him things she loves to hear. The song reached a peak position of number 48 in the Billboard Hot 100.

#2 – Give Me One Reason

Written by Tracy Chapman in the 1980s, “Give Me One Reason” would be released in her 1996 album, New Beginning, after being recorded in 1995. The song is a blues love song with an impertinent slant daring you to argue with her to get her to stay. “Give Me One Reason” appeared in numerous seasons of the TV show American Idol. Even though the song was not purely a rock song, it went ahead to win the Grammys for the Best Rock Song.

#1 – Fast Car

At number one is the hit song “Fast Car” from Tracy Chapman’s eponymous debut album, yet another Grammy Award-winning song. Tracy Chapman received a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1989 for this ballad. She sings from a perspective of a lady whose life is a mess compared to what she envisioned in the song. Misery begins when she falls for an unsupportive guy, who is unemployed, and, worst of all, is lazy! The song points to relationships that don’t work because they are or were built on the wrong foundation.

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Listen to "Gentlemen," "Fountain and Fairfax," and "What Jail Is Like." 9) In on the Kill Taker by Fugazi (1993) By this time, I had been sucked in and spit out by the major-label record industry. Glam came and went; grunge was history, too. I was searching for new sounds. When I heard Fugazi's twin guitar approach, I knew this was what was missing. Fugazi may be considered a less polished sound than the albums above; however, once you "get it," it hits you like a ton of bricks, and there's no going back. From the moment I heard Fugazi, I went to every NYC show after. It's easily some of the best concerts of my life, and possibly my favorite bassist in Joe Lally. And their DIY ethics refused to charge us more than $5 a show! In on the Kill Taker is a powerful album demonstrated in songs such as "Smallpox Champion," "Great Cop," and "Public Witness Program." 8) Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses (1987) I discovered many of these albums (sometimes long) after they were released. However, I was at the right place at the right time for this one. Steve Ostromogilsky had a Berklee College of Music lunch card and used to sneak out sandwiches for me. One day, he invited me to hang out at his place and listen to music. As we got off the train, he put Sony Walkman headphones on my ears and said, "Hey, check out this brand-new group." A song like "It's So Easy" was so different from the popular Sunset Strip sound at that time. Me and about 499 other informed rockers were lucky enough to see them on their first East Coast tour at the sold-out Paradise on Commonwealth Avenue, Boston (the same street Aerosmith started on). I saw Gn'R every tour after until I took a break when Buckethead joined. Gn'R is the band I've been lucky enough to see the most times live, almost 100! Everyone on this album is just stellar. Axl [Rose] had the tones, power, melodic sensibilities, and foresight to do what no other singer did then. Slash's playing was beyond memorable. Duff [McKagan] is one of the most underrated bassists in rock history, and learning his Appetite basslines is a masterclass. Steven [Adler] had the natural swing, and Izzy [Stradlin] was the secret weapon songwriter. Everything that's been heralded about this gem is deserved and true. Check out "It's So Easy," "Out Ta Get Me," and "Mr. Brownstone.' 7) Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd (1975) Another contender for my favorite album and band of all time. Using The Beatles machine (same recording studio, engineer, record label), Pink Floyd made what I feel is their strongest, most cohesive album (my second favorite of theirs would be Animals). This list mainly consists of bands with an instantly recognizable sound. Floyd is certainly no exception to that! This album included a solid handful of undeniable rock radio classics, bookended by two halves of the mind-blowing song "Shine on You Crazy Diamond.' That song was written about former band member and founder Syd Barrett. 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I'll never forget it! Unfortunately, Bon would be gone in 6 months. Check out "Walk All Over You," "Touch Too Much," "Shot Down in Flames," and "If You Want Blood (You Got It)." 4) Toys in the Attic by Aerosmith (1975) By the time I heard this, I was now in my teens. I had a childhood friend up the street, Jim Linberg (we're still good buddies). His older sister had a great album collection, including Toys in The Attic. Once I heard that groove, my taste changed. I lost interest in rock music that didn't have some sort of "swing" feel to it. I think Rocks is a slightly better Aerosmith album (and possibly my favorite album of all time), but both are perfect or very close. Check out "Uncle Salty," "Adam's Apple," "No More No More," "Round and Round," and "You See Me Crying." 3) Alive! by Kiss (1975) When I was still a little kid, I asked for Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke album for Christmas. The entire family came over for an enormous feast, and I dropped the needle. When my mother heard the content, she turned off the album and said I had to exchange it. My mom was cool, but I was young and knew much more about life than she suspected. Anyway, the next day, she drove me back to the store. In the music section, promoted on an "endcap" was a Kiss Alive! display. I had never heard of Kiss, but that cover picture told me I had to have it! My first foray into hard rock. Check out “Strutter.” I went through my Kiss phase very quickly, I believe in a matter of months because I discovered the previous entry, Aerosmith's Toys in the Attic. 2) Honky Chateau by Elton John (1972) When I was a wee lad, my parents bought a used Volkswagen camper van from my uncle Ozzie. My favorite Elton John album is Yellow Brick Road, but Honky Chateau is great and easily one of his best. It sent me down a lifelong rabbit hole of loving everything about the 1970s partnership between Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin. 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