Tracy began writing poetry at an early age and when she was eight she received her first guitar from her mother. An academic scholarship allowed her to attend high school in Connecticut, before studying anthropology at Tufts University in Massachusetts. During this time she began playing on the Boston folk circuit and at local coffeehouses.
It wasn’t long before her talents were spotted and in 1987 she signed a recording deal with Elektra.
Her self-titled debut album was released in 1988 and met with immediate critical and commercial success. An appearance at the Nelson Mandela 70th birthday tribute concert at Wembley Arena in the same year helped boost her international profile. Album sales shot through the roof following this one appearance and she went on to sell over 10 million copies and win three Grammy awards. Tracks like ‘Fast Car’ and ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ became instant radio favourites.
Although Chapman’s second album, ‘Crossroads’, went platinum, it failed to match the success of her first outing. While performing at a number of charity concerts, she continued to write and record songs for her next album – ‘Matters Of The Heart’. A four year sabbatical led to ’New Beginning’ in 1995, which went some way to restoring the commercial successes of her debut album, selling three million copies in the US alone. Another four year sabbatical saw her join the all women Lilith Tour and take part in a Bob Marley tribute in Jamaica.
Chapman’s fifth album ‘Telling Stories’ was released in 2000 and in 2003 she released ‘Let It Rain’. Despite never quite regaining the commercial success of her debut album, Chapman continued to release music to some critical acclaim and her seventh studio album, ‘Where You Live’, hit the streets in 2005 and was followed by a tour spanning the US and Europe.
2008 saw the release of her latest album, ‘Our Bright Future’. The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Recording. In an interview with NPR.org, Chapman explained that she has a “really loyal fan base” in Europe and will often begin tours there before returning to the US.
During that same interview, Chapman spoke about her work for charity and explained that she is “approached by lots of organisations” and has to choose who she can help. She said: “I have a certain interest of my own, generally an interest in human rights, so that’s partly why I’ve supported Amnesty International for all these years.” In addition to her work with Amnesty International, Chapman has attended and played at charity events including ‘Make Poverty History’, amfAR, the Foundation of AIDS research and AIDS/LifeCycle.