Tracy Chapman is a four-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter known for such songs as “Fast Car,” “Give Me One Reason,” and “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution.” She was interviewed by Rolling Stone in 1988, when she was still new on the scene, and asked what she thought about her demographic. Did the people who attended her concerts and approach her on the street for an autograph ever surprise her?
Tracy Chapman’s yuppie audience
In the RS article, writer Steve Pond notes that “upscale, liberal CD buyers” make up much of Chapman’s audience.
“Are they using her, in the words of Britain’s New Musical Express, as an ‘after-dinner conscience-comforter’?” asks Pond.
“That’s something I don’t have any control over,” replied Chapman. “People go to concerts for lots of different reasons, and there are probably people who come to see me for that very reason.”
It’s a question Chapman had grown accustomed to–”How do you feel about your yuppie audience?”
“I don’t know that they’re yuppies,” she said. “I know they can afford to pay a ticket price and buy the record, and that might put them in some particular economic status. But for me it’s just really important to know that people are listening, and I think that for whatever reasons, they are. I think lots of people come because they love the music, they love the way the record sounds, or they love my voice, and they don’t care about any of the songs that have political content to them.”
Chapman admitted that, at the time, she was coming to realize her own biases concerning who she thought would listen to her music.
“I’m a very open-minded person,” she said, “and I’ve been very surprised to find that I had all these biases about who I think is gonna like my music. And to find these 15-year-old kids who scream my name in the street like I’m some rock star or something…you know, that’s really nice.”
In 1988, Tracy Chapman was still getting used to being famous
At the time of the interview, Chapman was still considering what to do with her newfound wealth.
“I’ve gotta figure out some way not to give it all to the government, because they deserve it least of anyone,” she said. “But I’m gonna be very careful about all this financial stuff. And there aren’t many things right now that I want or need.”
Unable to help himself, Pond asked Chapman if she had any plans to buy herself a fast car.
“Well, I do have a Ferrari on hold…,” she said with a grin. “Somebody asked me what kind of car it was in that song. I think it was an Aries K car at first. And then it was a Toyota Corolla.”
“No, no fast cars,” she said, laughing. “I’ll just fix up my old car. It’s a 1980 Tercel with, like, 99,000 miles on it.”