The 80s: The 25th Anniversary of Tracy Chapman

Tracy.Chapman-1988There was no shortage of ladies on the music scene in 1988.  While Whitney Houston belted out “So Emotional,” Debbie Gibson sang “Shake Your Love.”  Belinda Carlisle let us know that “Heaven Is A Place On Earth,” and the group Exposé reminded us that “Seasons Change.”  However, there was one young lady who came on the scene in a quiet, unassuming manner and took music listeners, critics and the charts by storm.   Armed with her guitar, socially-conscious songs and a beautifully unique and sometimes haunting voice, Tracy Chapman released her self-titled, debut album.  It didn’t take long for music listeners to notice the 24-year old, Cleveland, Ohio native; her album went platinum just a couple of weeks after its release.  In a time of huge MJ 2011 Tracey Chapmanproduction budgets and videos with elaborate choreography, Chapman showed the music world that at the end of the day, it’s all about good songs, and she had plenty of ‘em.  The single “Fast Car” raced up the charts, making it to number six on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. to the top ten in the U.K.  Chapman’s music eventually became a mainstay on radio disc jockey playlists.  In particular, college radio listeners embraced songs like “She’s Got Her Ticket,” “Mountains O’ Things,” “Baby Can I Hold You,” and “Talkin’ ‘Bout A Revolution.”  Chapman’s album wound up topping the U.S. Billboard 200 chart in addition to making it to number one on several other charts worldwide.  In 1989 Tracy Chapman was number ten on Rolling Stone Magazine’s “100 Greatest Albums of the 80s” list.  Also in 1989, Chapman was nominated for seven Grammy Awards and took home three of them, including Best New Artist, Best Contemporary Folk Album, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

—Montrose Cunningham

Montrose Cunningham is an independent funk/rock/soul artist and devoted music aficionado residing in Dallas, Texas. When he isn’t digging through the crates–digital and analog–he’s jamming with his band or hanging with his daughters, sometimes at the same time. Purchase his latest release “Inertia” at, visit him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @MontroseC.  Check out his blog, Daddy Rock Star, at

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