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Tracy Chapman Biography

Home > Music > C > Chapman, Tracy > Biography

Born: 1964/03/30
Birth Place: Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Years Active: 1988–present
Genres: Folk, Blues, Alternative Rock, Pop, Soul

Tracy Chapman (born March 30, 1964) is an American singer-songwriter from Cleveland, Ohio. Chapman began playing guitar and writing songs at the age of eight. Chapman often performs at and attends charity events such as Make Poverty History, amfAR and AIDS/LifeCycle, to support social causes. She currently lives in San Francisco.

While a student at Tufts University, Chapman began busking in Harvard Square and playing guitar in Club Passim and within other coffeehouses in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Another Tufts student, Brian Koppelman, heard Chapman playing and brought her to the attention of his father, Charles Koppelman. Koppelman, who ran SBK Publishing, signed Chapman in 1986. After Chapman graduated from Tufts in 1987, he helped her to sign a contract with Elektra Records.

At Elektra, she released her debut album, “Tracy Chapman,” in 1988. The album was critically acclaimed and went to #1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. Soon after performing the single, “Fast Car” at the televised Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert in June 1988, Chapman's song began its rise on the U.S. charts. It became a #6 pop hit on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. “Talkin' 'bout a Revolution,” the follow-up charted at #75 and was followed by “Baby Can I Hold You,” which peaked at #48. The album sold well, going multi-platinum and winning three Grammy Awards, including an honor for Chapman as Best New Artist.

Her follow-up album, 1989’s “Crossroads” was less commercially successful, but still achieved platinum status. By 1992's “Matters of the Heart,” Chapman was playing to a small and devoted audience.

Released in 1995, her fourth album, “New Beginning” proved successful, selling over three million copies in the U.S. and reaching #4 on the Billboard 200. The album included the hit single “Give Me One Reason,” which won the 1997 Grammy for Best Rock Song and became Chapman's most successful single to date, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Her “Telling Stories,” released in 2000, featured more of a rock sound than folk. Its hit single, “Telling Stories,” received heavy airplay on European radio stations and on Adult Alternative and Hot AC stations in the United States. Chapman toured Europe and the US in 2003 in support of her sixth album, 2002’s “Let It Rain.”

In 2005, to support her seventh studio album, “Where You Live,” Chapman toured major US cities in October and throughout Europe over the remainder of the year. Chapman was commissioned by the American Conservatory Theater to compose music for its production of Athol Fugard's “Blood Knot, “a play on apartheid in South Africa, staged in early 2008.

Atlantic Records released Chapman's eighth studio album, “Our Bright Future” in 2008. The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.