Tracy Chapman could hold a really low profile, however she doesn't reside in a vacuum. The singer-songwriter was properly conscious of the success that Luke Combs' cowl of his music “Quick Automobile” had had final yr. After profitable two main awards on the Nation Music Affiliation Awards in November, he determined to name it quits.

It was a personal dialog, simply Chapman and Combs on the road for about half-hour, but it surely helped plant the seeds for probably the greatest collaborative performances of all time in Grammy historical past. On February 4, the reclusive folks singer, 59, and the gregarious nation star, 33, carried out “Quick Automobile” collectively on stage on the Area in Los Angeles. 5 days earlier, the 2 singer-songwriters had met in particular person for the primary time.

However in line with interviews with representatives for each artists, the Recording Academy, Sony Music Nashville, and Grammy producers, even then – with Chapman, Combs and a band practising “Quick Automobile” in a rehearsal studio in LA – appeared onerous to imagine. that the televised efficiency had truly occurred.

They’d each purpose to ask. Chapman had not given a live performance in 15 years. His final reside tv efficiency was in 2015 The Late Present With David Letterman (he additionally despatched a pre-recorded present to Seth Meyers in the course of the 2020 election). And he had declined all interview requests in regards to the 2023 revival of “Quick Automobile,” a music first launched in 1988. When “Quick Automobile” gained the CMA for Tune of the Yr, making Chapman the primary songwriter black to win the award, he despatched brief remarks to be learn on stage. Additionally for this story, he referred to his buddy Matthew Rankin – an SVP at Nonesuch Information who beforehand labored with Chapman at his longtime label, Elektra – to speak.

“It was a protracted course of, but it surely was positively our dream,” Grammy govt producer Raj Kapoor says of securing Chapman's look on the present. Working alongside govt producer Patrick Menton, they first got here up with the concept of ​​a “Quick Automobile” duo final Might, however monitoring down Chapman, who has no publicist and maintains an under-the-radar existence in San Francisco, wasn't . simple

Because it seems, Combs' publicist, Carla Sacks, had a two-decade relationship with Rankin, and he or she helped join Grammy producers with Staff Tracy. In the summertime of 2023, they referred to as Rankin to evaluate Chapman's curiosity in a attainable return to the Grammy stage, 35 years after profitable Finest New Artist.

“Nobody actually knew the best way to attain her, and it was simply, like pure magic, that I knew,” says Sacks. “I knew that the bell was ringing. And admittedly, I believe it was very helpful to not arrive as a foreigner and to have the ability to open the road of communication.”

By the point the producers linked with Chapman, Combs' model of “Quick Automobile” was on its approach to spending 5 consecutive weeks at primary. Billboard's Nation Airplay chart, it was weeks away from the highest of the Scorching Nation Songs survey, and it was at quantity two on the all-genre Scorching 100. It was an simple crossover, and earned Combs a Grammy nomination for Finest Nation Solo. Efficiency when the nominees have been introduced in November.

Menton says Chapman's staff expressed rapid curiosity throughout that preliminary name, however he and Kapoor weren't searching for a tough reply. “I advised Raj earlier than I left, 'We're not doing this like every other name.' In reality, he's not giving us a solution,” he says. “We requested Matthew, 'Put this to Tracy, let her reside on this house, and let her give it some thought creatively and what it may very well be. And if you're prepared, come again to us.

Shortly after the brand new yr, the producers had the affirmation they have been hoping for: Chapman was in. “Quick Automobile”, the duet, was a go. “It felt like a protracted sure,” says Kapoor. “He by no means felt a no or a possibly. They stated, “We agree; let's take our time and go for it. And we're ensuring that's what all of us need it to be.”

Rankin says having that point to ruminate on the choice was key.

“When Tracy and I first mentioned this chance, we realized it represented a second of confluence, 35 years to the month since Tracy first carried out 'Quick Automobile' on the Grammys, and after a yr of success for Luke together with his music,” he says.

Chris Kappy, Combs' longtime supervisor — who first recorded his shopper singing “Quick Automobile” in a Rome, Georgia, resort room in 2015 to publish on the wannabe's Vine account nation singer — stated Combs was desirous to carry out on the Grammys. efficiency with Chapman from the start. “However it's such an enormous ask, and such a pipe dream, that we actually didn't assume it will occur,” says Kappy. Rolling Stone.

Kappy says that when Combs came upon Chapman was on board, she demanded that she have full inventive management of the present, regardless of it being billed by the Grammys as a Combs look in an try to hold Chapman's cameo a shock “Luke wished to provide Tracy each alternative to shine,” says Kappy. “He stated, 'That is your music, and that is our alternative to be part of it.'

In keeping with Rankin, Chapman wished to make use of particular musicians within the band, together with drummer Denny Fongheiser and bassist Larry Klein, who performed on the unique recording of “Quick Automobile.” He additionally chosen his longtime band members Larry Campbell, on fiddle, and guitarist Joe Gore. Kappy says he requested Combs if the utility participant in his group, Kurt Ozan, would deal with the pedal metal. With the musicians established, Chapman and Combs started recording rehearsals.

Kapoor and Menton say that having enough time to observe the music was certainly one of Chapman's most essential requests. “The one factor that was actually talked about was that there was sufficient time to rehearse, for the 2 artists to come back collectively and have sufficient time to discover, to play via,” says Kapoor. “There are lots of various things about our present – set, manufacturing, visuals – however ultimately, this efficiency was in regards to the music and the music.”

On January 31, Chapman, Combs, and the band met at SIR studio in Los Angeles to work on an association. However the check was pivotal for one more purpose: three months after their first telephone name, the 2 songwriters would lastly be in the identical room collectively.

“The primary day of observe final week was a big and emotional second in itself. It was the primary time that Tracy and Luke had met in particular person, and the primary time in a few years that Tracy had seen a few of these gamers,” he says Rankin. “The musicians have been supported by key individuals behind the scenes – together with David Kershenbaum, who produced Tracy's debut album – and collectively, the collective expertise and expertise current in that room created a novel new model and delightful of this beloved music.

In keeping with Kappy, Chapman and Combs spent 20 minutes catching up and speaking about music earlier than beginning their first “Quick Automobile” run. Chapman led the trials: two hours on Wednesday, 4 on Thursday.

“He had a imaginative and prescient, and he requested Luke for his ideas. So that they stored working via it and going via it,” says Kappy. “It was a enjoyable approach to watch two artists create the second all of us had collectively on the Grammys.”

Chapman determined to play the guitar and begin the present, together with her dealing with the unusual verses and Pettine the friends. Then they got here collectively on the choruses, with Chapman taking on the tip of the music. “It was actually cool that she would begin and end the music,” says Kappy.

Additionally they determined to do Chapman's model — the unique, folky studying of “Quick Automobile,” versus Combs' cleaner, extra amplified rendition that followers heard on the radio. That required Combs to sing in a decrease key. He had no objections.

“All of this was achieved to honor the wonderful girl, songwriter and artist that she is,” says Kappy. “The entire alternative for us to even be on a stage with Tracy Chapman is what it was all about.”

Because the artists took the stage in entrance of hundreds of thousands on Sunday night time, Chapman was wearing a customized Prada shirt only for her. (By Rankin, she provides props to Howard Gee, proprietor of the AB Suits retailer in San Francisco, for choosing and becoming her denims.) As he normally does on the awards, Combs eschewed his typical apparel in baseball hat and fishing shirt scene. for a pointy go well with.

Because the music's well-known guitar intro started, it was unimaginable to inform at first who was on stage. The digital camera focuses solely on the arms enjoying the guitar, earlier than slowly revealing Chapman – with a large smile. Combs was off a long way to his left. It was to provide every artist their very own second, Kapoor says, and in addition to seize the reactions as the opposite sang. Says Menton, “Watching Luke smile at Tracy and sing each lyric, the way in which it was shot by [director] Hamish Hamilton was so particular.”

Rankin says you solely have to take a look at the interplay between the performers and the expressions of these within the viewers to see the affect the collaboration has had.

“Tomorrow night time, the roar of the viewers as Tracy and Luke have been revealed on stage confirmed simply how highly effective this second was, as have been the tears within the eyes of numerous individuals round us,” says Rankin. “Finally, the present speaks for itself, particularly the interactions between Tracy and Luke and their expressions, which tells you every part it’s essential learn about the way in which they felt.”

When the music was over, Chapman and Combs left their marks to reunite and embrace. It was the emotional pinnacle of a efficiency that few thought would ever occur.

“The efficiency was breathtaking and radiated pure happiness from each artists,” says Randy Goodman, president and CEO of Sony Music Nashville, Combs' label. “It was a full-circle second for Luke and the proper end result to a tremendous story.”

“We knew we have been working in direction of one thing uncommon and particular,” says Rankin, “however the efficiency was every part we hoped it will be and extra, and the following response was unbelievable, exceeding our expectations in so some ways.”


After the hug on stage, Chapman returned to his dressing room and went house the subsequent day, again to his life in San Francisco. As for future appearances, we'll simply have to attend and surprise. And possibly that mystique — a rarity within the show-and-tell-all age of social media — is what made the Grammys efficiency so particular.

“Sunday night time was the end result of lengthy and really cautious planning, in addition to profitable teamwork,” says Rankin. He additionally credited one other high quality proven by everybody who labored on the present: “the power to maintain a secret.”

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