“Ben E. King, who wrote (with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) and recorded the original and iconic version of “Stand By Me,” died on Thursday at age 76. That song has been covered more than 400 times, but just two weeks ago, David Letterman requested that Tracy Chapman perform it live on his show. She did, just her and a guitar. It’s haunting.” —Peter Weber
Tracy Chapman has always been one of my favorites. Fast Car blasted on my cassette player as I drove North on I-5 from Federal Way, Summer of 1988. My dad and brother followed me, two cars packed up with all I would need for dorm life at WWU.
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
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we’ll make something
Me myself I got nothing to prove
It had been a trying year ending with my third stepmother’s funeral the week of graduation after a three year battle with cancer. I was no longer tethered to the place I grew up. Good friends already off to their respective colleges the year before, I had been living for the moment of escape longer than I even knew. Homelife was hard and school, where I had always gotten what I needed, had fallen apart that year. I had done my best but felt like I really was Starting from zero and had nothing to lose.
All I wanted to do for a year was run. Run from the numbness that almost swallowed me up at home. Run from the loneliness of stepping out of the nest (such as it was) into the world. Run from not belonging, knowing for sure it was up to me to make my way with whatever I had in me.
As I drove my Fast car, a Ford Pinto Hatchback, I was free and excited and nervous. Those heavy, black clouds parted and I was on my way.