Can you believe it’s been 20 years since Tracy Chapman first took us for a ride in her “Fast Car”? And, before you tell me you weren’t even born yet, you at least have to have heard her “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution,” right? Now the soft-spoken singer-songwriter who lets her lyrics do the talking is back with her eighth studio album, Our Bright Future.
Out today, the release is her first in three years and, despite what the title may say, it’s not all sunshine and poppies. Instead in numbers like the title song, Tracy sings in her voice that is equal parts guts and grace that we’ve been “Led on led on/ to take the path/ where our bright future/ is in the past.”
In a recent interview with UK paper The Guardian (hat tip, Jenni!), the out artist talked about everything from growing up poor in Cleveland (“I always loved school and thought it was my way out of Cleveland, and out of poverty”) to how the record company treated her as a 24-year-old with her first contract (“you’re young, you’re inexperienced, you’re a woman even, what do you know about any of this?”) and even, yes, the Material Girl herself.
Props also go to Tracy who, as a Barack Obama supporter, was still angered by the sometimes sexist treatment of Hillary Clinton. A longtime supporter of such causes as Amnesty International, AIDS research and anti-war groups, Tracy was not shy about her feminist leanings.
While Tracy is happy to talk about politics or humanitarian issues, her new album isn’t all topical. In an appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno last week, Tracy sang the album’s first single, Sing For You, about a lost love. As a fan of Tracy’s for those 20 years, it’s been a privilege to watch her passion all these years. And I can’t be the only one is struck by her seeming discovery of the fountain of youth.
Perhaps speaking softly and carrying a big guitar is the secret to eternal youth. At the very least, I know it’s the recipe for some damn good music.