Tracy Chapman becomes first-ever Black woman to have sole songwriting credit on a country chart-topper

Mildred Europa Taylor July 03, 2023
Tracy Chapman. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ jurvetson

Country music star Luke Comb’s version of “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman has got the singer her first No. 1 on the Billboard Country Songwriters chart as the sole credited writer, Taste of Country reported Monday. The song also topped Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, which is also a first for her, the platform added.

The achievement makes Chapman the first Black woman to have a number-one hit with a country song as the sole writer. Three other Black women have official writing credits on No. 1 country songs — Tayla Parx, who co-wrote “Glad You Exist” in 2021 by Dan + Shay; Alice Randall, who co-wrote Trisha Yearwood’s 1994 “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl);” and Ester Dean, a writer of Lady A’s 2020 hit, “Champagne Night”. Chapman however stands out because she is the sole songwriter on “Fast Car”.

Her debut single in 1988, “Fast Car” earned the guitar-playing singer a Grammy award for best pop vocal performance. Combs, whose cover of the song is making waves, said he has not yet heard from Chapman about the cover. Even though Combs said he doesn’t need approval before recording a cover, he said that royalties must be paid to the song’s writer. There are also certain steps he can’t take with a cover.

“There are licenses for a lot of things. I can’t make any videos — I can’t do a music video,” he said in an interview with Grady Smith. “I can’t license it to a TV show, because I don’t own the publishing on it,” he further indicated.

Combs may therefore not be able to perform the cover at any awards shows unless Chapman gives him the go-ahead. Recently, Nicki Minaj agreed to pay $450,000 to Chapman to settle a copyright lawsuit the latter brought against her for reportedly sampling her song without her permission.

According to The Guardian, the award-winning rapper and her representatives contacted Chapman to request clearance to sample her 1988 single “Baby Can I Hold You” for her Nas-assisted track, “Sorry”. Seasoned singer and songwriter Chapman, however, repeatedly rejected their request. And though the song, which was set to be featured on Minaj’s 2018 album Queen, was never released officially, it was leaked on New York-based radio station Hot 97. The Super Bass rapper agreed to an out-of-court settlement instead of proceeding to trial, court documents reportedly revealed.

“I am glad to have this matter resolved and grateful for this legal outcome which affirms that artists’ rights are protected by law and should be respected by other artists,” Chapman said in a statement after the settlement. “I was asked in this situation numerous times for permission to use my song; in each instance, politely and in a timely manner, I unequivocally said no. Apparently Ms Minaj chose not to hear and used my composition despite my clear and express intentions.”

Chapman is reportedly on a “do not sample” list which means she does not allow other artistes to use any of her works.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: July 3, 2023


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