How Stevie Wonder accidentally made Tracy Chapman a household name

Virgin Radio

7 Feb 2024, 11:56

Credit: Getty

From a last-minute substitution to Grammy glory, Chapman's journey is a testament to unexpected opportunities.

Tracy Chapman, the celebrated singer behind classics like Fast Car and Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution, recently captivated audiences once again, with a rare live performance at the Grammy Awards.

While she's now a household name, Chapman's meteoric rise to superstardom can be traced back to an unexpected turn of events on a fateful night in 1988.

This week's Grammy performance is just the latest chapter in Chapman's storied career.

However, one Twitter user recently shed light on the unbelievable circumstances that thrust Chapman into the spotlight initially.

In 1988, Wembley Stadium was set to feature Stevie Wonder and his band after a performance by Birmingham's UB40.

Yet, just as UB40 concluded their set, Wonder discovered a devastating setback – the hard disc of his Synclavier, holding all 25 minutes of music for his performance, was missing.

As Wonder and his band left the stadium in dismay, a sudden void needed filling.

Chapman, having already performed earlier that day, stepped up.

With poise and talent, she delivered an impromptu set, featuring songs from her recent album, including the iconic Fast Car and Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution.

Wembley was taken by storm, and Chapman's journey to stardom had an unexpected beginning.

Before that night, Chapman had sold approximately 250,000 albums.

The aftermath of her Wembley performance was nothing short of magical – her album sales skyrocketed to millions in the weeks that followed.

Chapman achieved historic milestones, becoming the first Black woman to secure a country number one with a solo composition.

In 1989, she earned six Grammy nominations for her debut album, clinching victory in three categories.

Throughout her illustrious career, Chapman produced eight studio albums and 22 singles.

Even after a period of relative seclusion, her recent Grammy performance catapulted Fast Car to the top of iTunes charts, reaffirming her enduring impact on music.

This week's Grammy Awards at Arena marked Chapman's surprise return to the stage.

Clad in black, with her guitar in hand, Chapman's performance resonated with audiences from the first chords of Fast Car.

The Grammy stage, however, wasn't hers alone, as country music legend Luke Combs joined her.

Combs, who released a cover of Fast Car last year, expressed his awe, saying: “Tracy Chapman is such an icon, and one of the greatest artists that I think any of us will be along to see.”

He considered it a full-circle moment and a humbling experience to be associated with Chapman.

As the triumphant chorus of Fast Car echoed through the arena, host Trevor Noah joined fans in celebrating the legendary Tracy Chapman, highlighting the profound impact of her unexpected journey from a Wembley substitution to Grammy glory.