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Tracy Chapman - Fast Car - Lyrics Meaning

This track won singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman a Grammy award in 1988 for `Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.'

In an interview, Chapman said, "It's not really about a car at all...basically it's about a relationship that doesn't work out because it's starting from the wrong place."

At the start of the song we learn of a girl who has quit school to look after her ailing, alcoholic father after her mother walks out. She dreams of a better life and hatches a plan to escape from it all with a boyfriend who has a fast car. The song jumps forward in time and the lines, `I know things will get better, you'll find work...we'll move out of this shelter...' let us know that things haven't turned out the way she planned. By the end of the song, time has moved on again and we're told of a less than happy home life with her working to pay the bills and bringing up their children on her own while he remains unemployed and stays out drinking.

The importance of the decision to run away together at the start of the story is conveyed by the line, `We leave tonight or live and die this way.' The lyrics fill us with a shared sense of hope but by the end of the song we realize another life changing, and sad, decision has been made when the `we' becomes `you' in the final line, `You leave tonight or live and die this way.'

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