Album - Luke Combs - Gettin Old
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‘Fast Car’ by Luke Combs - Lyrics & Meaning

June 27, 2023 12:05 pm GMT
Last Edited July 18, 2023 4:59 pm GMT

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Luke Combs - ‘Fast Car’

Label: River House Artists / Columbia Nashville

Release Date: 24th March 2023

Album: Gettin’ Old

Producers: Chip Matthews & Jonathan Singleton

Songwriters: Tracy Chapman

Chart Performance:

  • No. 2 on Billboard Hot 100
  • No. 2 on Billboard Hot Country Songs
  • No. 5 on Billboard Country Airplay
  • No. 2 on Mediabase Country

Certifications:

  • Platinum (July 18, 2023)

The Background:

Long before Luke Combs’ cover of ‘Fast Car’ was given an official release on his acclaimed 2023 album, Gettin’ Old, Luke's Tracy Chapman cover had already worked its way into fans’ hearts.

This was due to the Luke sharing an acoustic rendition of ‘Fast Car’ on his YouTube channel almost six years ago, with fans clamouring for his gravelly and gently countrified version of the classic ballad to be made available on streaming platforms ever since.

They got their wish in March 2023, when the ‘Beautiful Crazy’ hitmaker surprised critics and fans alike by including ‘Fast Car’ in the tracklist for Gettin’ Old.

As is the case with any Luke Combs album, Gettin’ Old was packed with chart-topping single candidates, with ‘Love You Anyway’ being shipped to Country Radio before the project had been put out. However, with ‘Fast Car’ quickly building up a head of steam upon its release, Luke and his team were left with no choice but to select it as his next single.

At the time of writing, ‘Fast Car’ is on the cusp of going No. 1 on the Mediabase Country chart, while it has also matched Luke Combs’ highest positioning on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100, which he earned when ‘Forever After All’ reached No. 2.

Luke Combs has repeatedly underlined that he was keen to stick closely to Tracy Chapman's 1988 original, with the country superstar citing ‘Fast Car’ as the song his dad would always play in the car, as well as being one of the first tracks he learnt the guitar to.

It's one of the only songs Luke Combs has cut that he hasn't co-written, along with the neo-Western ‘Where The Wild Things Are’, which also appeared on Gettin’ Old.

The Sound:

Luke Combs made a point of not playing around too much with the instrumentation that was used on Tracy Chapman's original. With Luke’s trademark husky vocals, his rendition of ‘Fast Car’ benefits from this decision to keep the guitar backing relatively drawn-in, with the central, serpentine beat glueing the track together.

As with Tracy Chapman's version, the ballad coasts gently along for the first few verses as Luke sets the scene, before launching into the iconic hook, where he is joined by a smooth crescendo as the instrumentation matches his escalation in energy.

Even on tender, slow-burning ballads such as ‘Forever After All’ and ‘Doin’ This’, Luke Combs usually transforms his hooks into storming, high-powered anthems accompanied by aggressive electric guitars.

On ‘Fast Car’, he relinquishes this charged, zero-to-a-hundred style in favour of a more easy-going, meandering ambience that is carried serenely through the entirety of the song.

The fact that ‘Fast Car’ appears on Gettin‘ Old - the more mature sibling to Luke’s previous album, Growin’ Up - gives him the freedom to include these more introspective and less bar-suited odes on the project, providing listeners with a sound that leans more into the enchanting intricacy of tracks such as ‘Better Together’ and ‘Joe’.

On the tracklist, ‘Fast Car’ follows on from the equally as vulnerable ‘Love You Anyway’ and ‘Take You With Me’, both of which ease the listener down from the raucous high of ‘My Song Will Never Die’ and ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. ‘Fast Car’ then leads smoothly into the sun-soaked, heartbroken hangover of ‘Tattoo on a Sunburn’.

Gettin’ Old epitomises the level of consideration that Luke Combs puts into his album structure and composition, where each track feels carefully positioned in order to keep the listener engrossed in the sonic and emotional journey the North Carolina native is taking them on.

In a record littered with stellar offerings that all contribute towards this rich, variegated tapestry, you can't help but feel as though ‘Fast Car’ is the shimmering jewel in the crown.

The Meaning:

“You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Any place is better
Startin' from zero, got nothing to lose
Maybe we'll make something
Me, myself, I got nothing to prove”

Luke makes no changes to Tracy Chapman's evocative lyrics, which knit together to tell the story of a young woman who leaves her family to pursue love and the promise of a happier future.

You got a fast car
I got a plan to get us out of here
I been working at the convenience store
Managed to save just a little bit of money
Won't have to drive too far
Just across the border and into the city
You and I can both get jobs
Finally see what it means to be living”

‘Fast Car’ opens with a sense of bright-eyed optimism, as the protagonist stands on the precipice of a new life filled with romance, adventure and opportunity. She quickly pinpoints her love interest - and his beat-up old car - as her ticket out of her current situation.

“See, my old man's got a problem
He lives with the bottle, that's the way it is
He says his body's too old for working
His body's too young to look like his
Mama went off and left him
She wanted more from life than he could give
I said, ‘Somebody's got to take care of him’
So I quit school and that's what I did”

In the third verse, we learn more about why our lead character is so eager to move away and open a new chapter, as we find out that her father is fighting a long-standing battle with alcoholism.

As a result, she has been forced to put her own dreams on hold, in order to help him get his life back on-track - something that, as the song unfolds, becomes more and more of a struggle.

Interestingly, the dark side of alcohol is a recurring theme throughout the rest of the album, most viscerally on ‘Joe’, which explores the newfound freedom of a man who has given up drinking.

It represents a marked shift compared to the beer-chugging fire-starters that Luke Combs has become known for, such as ‘Beer Never Broke My Heart’ and ‘1, 2 Many’, and again symbolises the overall impetus of maturity that underpins Gettin’ Old.

You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so we can fly away?
Still gotta make a decision
Leave tonight, or live and die this way

So, I remember when we were driving, driving in your car
Speed so fast, I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I, I, had a feeling that I belonged
I, I, had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone”

‘Fast Car’ hits its uplifting climax when we join the two lovers coasting happily away from their past lives, with the tantalising dawn of a fresh start serving as the only fuel keeping them going, as their previous misery fades slowly away in the rear-view mirror.

You got a fast car
We go cruisin', entertain ourselves
You still ain't got a job
So I work in a market as a checkout girl
I know things will get better
You'll find work and I'll get promoted
We'll move out of the shelter
Buy a bigger house, live in the suburbs”

Here, we encounter the first subtle signs of trouble, as we learn that our protagonist's partner “still ain't got a job”. Nonetheless, she remains hopeful that things will ultimately work out for the best.

In his effort to keep his rendition as close to the original as possible, this verse brings us the amusing and charming moment where Luke Combs, in his deep, burly baritone, sings the now-immortal line, “So I work in the market as a checkout girl”.

You got a fast car
I got a job that pays all our bills
You stay out drinking late at the bar
See more of your friends than you do of your kids
I'd always hoped for better
Thought maybe together you and me would find it
I got no plans, I ain't going nowhere
So take your fast car and keep on driving”

As ‘Fast Car’ reaches its conclusion, the song is tinted by a strong sense of melancholy, as our protagonist finds herself in a similar situation to how she began the song - stuck in an unbalanced, loveless household, where she is the only one keeping them afloat.

The song ends up by flipping the original cri-de-coeur, as she tells her partner to “take your fast car and keep on driving”.

What has Luke Combs said about ‘Fast Car’?

In a number of interviews, Luke Combs has stressed just how much ‘Fast Car’ means to him, highlighting it as his “first favourite song probably ever. I remember listening to that song with my dad in his truck when I was probably four years old. He had a cassette, a tape of it, and we had this old brown camper top F-150”.

Speaking to Smooth Radio, the chart-topping powerhouse outlined why he decided to record ‘Fast Car’, and why it has now become a staple of his live setlist, “It’s always been one of my favourites. I covered it in college, and just kind of continued to play it around the house or whatever, and did a video of it in 2020 during the whole lockdown thing. I just figured, why not? It’s been such a big part of my life, and I just figured it would be cool to do an official version of it”.

In a conversation with iHeartCountry, Luke again emphasised his love for ‘Fast Car’, “It's always just been one of my favourite songs for my entire life, so I was really blessed to have the opportunity to record this and for the fans to be able to hear it”.

During his 2023 Grady Smith interview, Luke Combs revealed that ‘Fast Car’ nearly didn't make it onto the Gettin’ Old tracklist, “Jonathan [Singleton] tried to talk me into not cutting it, because he was like, ‘What's the point...why would you put it on there?’”

Luke went on to underline that he had no idea that his version of the song would become as successful as it is today, “We didn't know, that wasn't the plan...I've tried for years, ever since I first started putting music out, to figure out what the people are going to like. What do I think is going to be everyone's favourite song? And I'm always wrong”.

Delving into the story of ‘Fast Car’ in the same discussion, Luke mused, “She's trying to remember these good times, she's taking care of [her father] now, obviously, and the mother's like, “I'm out, I'm not taking care of this guy”, so she's like, “Well I have to”...My uncle lives with my grandmother, and my grandmother's not a raging alcoholic, but she lives in his house and he watches over her and takes care of her. I imagine this scenario being a little bit [of a] younger version of that, right? In my mind, the dad is in his fifties in this song, and the kid is probably mid-20s”.

Luke Combs then concluded, “Everybody that has had - I would imagine - struggles with their parents have these core memories that they go back to of like...we did have good times, right?”

For the full lyrics to Luke Combs’ ‘Fast Car’, see below:

“You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Any place is better
Startin' from zero, got nothing to lose
Maybe we'll make something
Me, myself, I got nothing to prove

You got a fast car
I got a plan to get us out of here
I been working at the convenience store
Managed to save just a little bit of money
Won't have to drive too far
Just across the border and into the city
You and I can both get jobs
Finally see what it means to be living

See, my old man's got a problem
He lives with the bottle, that's the way it is
He says his body's too old for working
His body's too young to look like his
Mama went off and left him
She wanted more from life than he could give
I said, "Somebody's got to take care of him"
So I quit school and that's what I did

You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so we can fly away?
Still gotta make a decision
Leave tonight, or live and die this way

So, I remember when we were driving, driving in your car
Speed so fast, I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I, I, had a feeling that I belonged
I, I, had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

You got a fast car
We go cruisin', entertain ourselves
You still ain't got a job
So I work in a market as a checkout girl
I know things will get better
You'll find work and I'll get promoted
We'll move out of the shelter
Buy a bigger house, live in the suburbs

So, I remember when we were driving, driving in your car
Speed so fast, I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I, I, had a feeling that I belonged
I, I, had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

You got a fast car
I got a job that pays all our bills
You stay out drinking late at the bar
See more of your friends than you do of your kids
I'd always hoped for better
Thought maybe together you and me would find it
I got no plans, I ain't going nowhere
So take your fast car and keep on driving

So, I remember when we were driving, driving in your car
Speed so fast, I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I, I, had a feeling that I belonged
I, I, had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so you can fly away?
You still gotta make a decision
Leave tonight, or live and die this way”

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