Jamila Woods Reinvents Tracy Chapman’s 1988 Hit, “Fast Car”

Jamila Woods Reinvents Tracy Chapman’s 1988 Hit, “Fast Car”

Tracy Chapman’s 1988 hit song “Fast Car” is not only a staple of folk music, but an authentic piece of art about honesty, self-discovery, and determination overall. A song that describes a car as a metaphor for escaping growing pains and past trauma, “Fast Car” digs deep into the idea of running away from one’s problems in hopes of achieving a happier and more lively existence. Chapman was able to capture the hearts and spirits of people all around the world by singing about inner struggles and vulnerability in a relatable way. And to this day, her music remains prevalent in popular culture and among various demographics of individuals.

American singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman, 1989. Photo by Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Needless to say, “Fast Car” is a track adored and admired by the masses, which has prompted many artists to cover the song over the years. Prominent talents such as Justin Bieber, Black Pumas, Wayne Wonder, and Elizabeth Gillies have all created their own versions of the song, with each cover encompassing a unique sound.

On July 28th, Chicago musician and creative Jamila Woods became the latest act to release a cover of the highly-esteemed classic. Created for Jagjaguwar’s 25th-anniversary compilation album, Join the Ritual, Jamila Woods’s “Fast Car” is a brilliant and dreamy reimagining of Tracy Chapman’s world.


Though Woods manages to put her own spin on this timeless record, she takes from Chapman’s very essence, which would not be hard for her to do because of the similarities she has to Chapman herself. Just like Chapman, Woods is also a Black, queer woman from the midwest, which allows her to pull from the same channel of energy that Chapman did 33 years ago in that recording studio.

Woods’s cover of “Fast Car” is a song with a soft, dreamy feel, yet one of power and unapologetic confidence. While telling the same original story of running away, Woods brings the tempo down, putting it all in slow motion and bringing the realness of escapism to complement the storyline.

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