if you’ve recently heard sam smith’s version of “fast car,” which is going around a lot of blogs today (including outofficial)—please, please, please, promise me you will go listen to the original version. it’s not a heartfelt jazz cover about reckless love penned by a white british gay guy. it’s one small but important part of a fucking masterpiece of an album about being a dead broke, young black lesbian struggling to survive in a fucked up, racist country, and yet still daring to believe in love, and revolution, and a better life.
I have absolutely no quibble with discovering great older work through new covers, or even finding room to love both (or many) versions passionately. (I actually really like sam smith’s album, for whatever that’s worth.)
but in this case the history of the album is really, really important. it was this startlingly specific piece of art that still resonated enough with enough people in 1988 that it sold millions of copies and was nominated for an album of the year grammy. (which she didn’t win, though she she did take home three, including best new artist and best female pop vocal performance for “fast car”—which also went to #3 on the billboard hot 100, which is sort of impossible to believe but true.)
this album was one of those “i didn’t know we could do that” moments in my young life, and if you’ve never heard it before, i hope you’ll take the time to listen now. it holds up well. too well.