Where Has Tracy Chapman Been?

Tracy Chapman’s rare public appearance at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night — where she practically stole the show performing her 1988 song “Fast Car” with the country singer Luke Combs — left many fans wondering why she had largely stepped away from music for more than a decade.

Despite some scattered performances on television and at awards shows, Chapman, 59, has remained almost entirely absent from the music world in recent years, having released her last studio album in 2008 and done her last tour in 2009. Since she first emerged in the late 1980s, she has always been known as a reclusive and private figure.

“Being in the public eye and under the glare of the spotlight was, and it still is, to some extent, uncomfortable for me,” she told The Irish Times in 2015. “There are some ways by which everything that has happened in my life has prepared me for this career. But I am bit shy.”

The acclaim for her Grammys performance — Taylor Swift could be seen singing along in the crowd — was a sign of how beloved Chapman remains. Combs’s note-for-note cover of “Fast Car” went to No. 2 on Billboard’s pop singles chart last year, and after the Grammys, Chapman’s original began shooting up iTunes’s download chart.

After her debut LP, “Tracy Chapman,” was released in 1988 — and went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart — she released seven more studio albums. Her last, “Our Bright Future,” came out in 2008. Jon Pareles of The New York Times described it as a collection of “morose love songs” as well as “her latest utopian vision of a world without war or greed.”

Chapman performed at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2012. Credit…Kevin Wolf/Associated Press

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