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Tracy Chapman helped restore singer/songwriters to the spotlight in the ’80s. The multi-platinum success of Chapman’s eponymous 1988 debut was unexpected, and it had lasting impact.
Although Chapman was working from the same confessional singer/songwriter foundation that had been popularized in the ’70s, her songs were fresh and powerful, driven by simple melodies and affecting lyrics.
At the time of her first album, there were only a handful of artists performing such a style successfully, and her success ushered in a new era of singer/songwriters that lasted well into the ’90s. Furthermore, her album helped usher in the era of political correctness — along with 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M., Chapman’s liberal politics proved enormously influential on American college campuses in the late ’80s.
Of course, such implications meant that Chapman’s subsequent recordings were greeted with mixed reactions, but after several years out of the spotlight, she managed to make a very successful comeback in 1996 with her fourth album, New Beginning, thanks to the Top Ten single “Give Me One Reason.”