Single Stories: Tracy Chapman, “Give Me One Reason”
21 years ago today, Tracy Chapman had a single enter the Billboard Hot 100 which would go on to become the biggest US hit of her career. Maybe that’s because American TV viewers had already been given a chance to absorb the song and start to fall in love with it half a dozen years before it was actually released.
Yes, it’s true: in 1989, Chapman had performed “Give Me One Reason” when she was the musical guest on the Christmas episode of NBC’s Saturday Night Live. But having found success in road-testing songs before recording them, she didn’t rush to put this particular track on an album, even if she did think enough of it to play it to millions of viewers on that fateful Saturday evening in ’89.
As Chapman told Charlie Rose during an interview circa the release of her 1995 album NEW BEGINNING, “I actually felt like I’d had enough of the music business. It was wonderful to have the success of the first record, and it created so many opportunities for me and made my life better on a material level, so all of that was really great. But it was also kind of stressful for a person who likes to be kind of private.” After her second and third albums didn’t do as well as her first album, she was feeling like she “wanted to do something other than be in a business that sometimes doesn’t seem like it values the artistic side of the business,” she decided to just make the best record she could in the way that she could, using the best people she could find.
The end result truly was a NEW BEGINNING for Chapman, but nowhere was that more evident than in the success of “Give Me One Reason.” Not only did it prove that she was more than just the woman behind “Fast Car,” but it took her all the way to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In December 1996, Fred Bronson wrote in Billboard, “The comeback artist of 1996 must be Tracy Chapman.” He was spot on.