Finding Hope in a Fast Car – A Reflection on the 2024 Grammys

The 2024 Grammys provided a beacon of light amidst a world fraught with challenges, uncertainties, doom and gloom. Amongst the stellar performances of the evening, one unlikely duo stood out: Luke Combs and Tracy Chapman. Their collaboration set a magical tone for the night, leaving a lasting impression.

Luke Combs shared a story before their performance, shedding light on his creative process and how his cover version of “Fast Car” almost never happened. His words resonated deeply as he recalled listening to “Fast Car” while riding around in his dad’s truck as a young boy and reflecting on how those experiences were formative to his musical journey. 

Recently, a theme of the “failure of imagination” surfaced during recent tragic events, conversations I had with guests on The StreetSmart Wisdom Podcast and a WisdomFeed event with Laura Simms. Laura recently shared a brilliant program entitled “Stories of Peace In Times of War.” While one of the stories included a seemingly impossible situation, the protagonist changed all the human characters into animals–and wouldn’t you know it, through the exercise of imagination, of looking at things from a different perspective, the characters created a positive outcome and saved the day in the story.  It’s a reminder of the power of looking at things from different perspectives, a concept akin to mindfulness and how it can lead to a “success of imagination.”

In mindfulness practices, there’s a notion of the “pause” – taking a moment to breathe and connect with our intuition before reacting. Luke Combs exemplified this pause in his creative journey. Despite having completed his planned studio recordings, he followed a creative impulse to record Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” It was a song deeply intertwined with his memories of driving with his father, and that connection fueled his decision. In other words, he followed his “gut” and laid down the track, as an afterthought.

At the 2024 Grammys, their live rendition of “Fast Car” struck a chord with millions of viewers. It wasn’t just a performance; it was a beacon of hope. The song’s message, reminiscent of other anthems like “Radar Love” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Used Car,” songs of longing with car imagery, and songs of redemption. The duet was deeply moving.

James Hillman shared the idea that, “The only solution to the longing for desire, is to connect with the desire with the longing. ” Jon Kabat-Zinn shares a unique concept or strategy to look at things differently. He describes looking at a situation in an “orthogonal” or 180-degree rotation, that allows us to rest in awareness instead of identifying with our thoughts. A way to see things with a beginner’s mind. Luke Combs’ decision to follow his creative impulse echoed this sentiment. His willingness to take a risk in the studio. Even though he had recorded all of the planned tracks for the new album, he followed his dream and made just one more recording – and it  resulted in a performance that moved millions.

The term “make room for God” can be interpreted as making room for imagination, making room for the unknown. Luke Combs’ creative risk-taking embodied this idea, touching the hearts of millions and reigniting Tracy Chapman’s career in the process. It serves as a reminder that hope, imagination, and creativity can truly make a difference in the world.

The performance invites us to reflect on our own creative impulses. What stories do we have to tell? In a world in flux, embracing these impulses can lead to moments of connection and hope, much like the magic of a timeless song shared onstage by an unlikely duo.

“You got a fast car

And 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 nothin’ to lose

Maybe we’ll make something

Me, myself, I got nothin’ to prove…”

Fast Car

Lyrics by Tracy Chapman

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