Song of the Day #1,380: ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ – Tracy Chapman

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve managed to post 1,379 songs without ever featuring a track by Tracy Chapman. You’d think she would have come up at some point.

True, I own only one Chapman album (her 1987 debut) but that record is a wonderful piece of work. And it’s an album of which I have very specific memories of exactly the sort I like to explore on this blog.

I guess she was just never high enough on my radar to break through. So thank you, Random iTunes Man, for the reminder.

Like most people, I discovered Chapman through her remarkable lead-off single, ‘Fast Car,’ and I admit that when I watched the video for that song I initially thought she was a man. Specifically, a teenage boy.

My next-door neighbor (and fellow high school sophomore) bought the album on cassette and shared it with me. I thought he had bought the single but when I played it and heard the first track was ‘Talkin’ Bout a Revolution’ and not ‘Fast Car’ I was pleasantly surprised. Thirty-six minutes later I had a new favorite album.

Thinking back, it’s funny that I was introduced to this liberal black lesbian artist by a staunchly Southern Baptist teenager.

Chapman’s album had its share of politically charged material but also a heavy dose of love songs (or, more accurately, heartbreak songs). ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ is one of the best — a touching ballad about a lover who has trouble expressing her feelings.

Sorry
Is all that you can’t say
Years gone by and still
Words don’t come easily
Like sorry
Like sorry

Forgive me
Is all that you can’t say
Years gone by and still
Words don’t come easily
Like forgive me
Forgive me

But you can say baby
Baby can I hold you tonight
Maybe if I’d told you the right words
At the right time
You’d be mine

I love you
Is all that you can’t say
Years gone by and still
Words don’t come easily
Like I love you
I love you

But you can say baby
Baby can I hold you tonight
Maybe if I’d told you the right words
At the right time
You’d be mine

Baby can I hold you tonight
Maybe if I’d told you the right words
At the right time
You’d be mine

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7 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,380: ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ – Tracy Chapman

  1. Amy says:

    Gotta love Random Weekends! I, too, fell in love with this album in an instance. I remember watching the video again and again (but not mistaking Chapman for a teenage boy!) and being just haunted by the simple power of the lyrics and music. That year, a high school friend who had transferred to UF from a college in Boston told me he would listen to Chapman play on the street corner and throw a few bucks in her hat. I was awed by that thought. When Dana and I saw her in concert several years ago, I was transfixed. She may be the most powerful performer I have ever seen – just in her ability to dominate a room with that soft voice and an acoustic guitar.

  2. Dana says:

    I first heard “Fast Car” while I was spending the summer in Cambridge, England. I was fascinated an acoustic song by a young Black American artists eemed to be such a hit in England. And being overseas at the time, the song would instantly transport me back to the States, as it just seemed so quintessentially American in theme and tone.

    Unlike you, we own a few other of her albums, and they are quite good, though none are as wonderful as her debut album.

    Oh, and when I first heard “Fast Car,” I assumedd she was a girl based on the lyrics…in particlar “your arm felt nice wrapped round my shoulder.” However, I must admit that, when I saw the video, I had my doubts:)

    Anyway, today’s song is wonderful and thank goodness the iPod fairy landed on it as Chapman’s presence is long overdue on your blog.

  3. pegclifton says:

    Your memory of the boy next door in Virginia reminded me of that Thanksgiving dinner we went to at their house and how strange we felt holding hands around the table for a pre-dinner prayer–do you have any memory of it? I agree that it is interesting that he introduced you to this artist.

  4. heather says:

    that album is definitely a favorite for me, too, and that song, in particular, brings back a very specific moment in time. my then-boyfriend and i realized, with much sadness, we weren’t going to stay together (after one of the most tumultuous and heartbreaking times of my life). as we were packing my things for me to move out, this album was playing and, when this song came on, he took my hand and asked me to dance with him. we danced in that tiny cottage apartment.

    music has such power in our lives. here, 23 years later, i feel as if i’m in a little movie. thanks for finally tending to tracy chapman in this way – i agree with amy that she is an extraordinary performer. no bells and whistles, just a guitar and that fabulous voice. and lots of drunken women screaming their phone numbers, if you happen to be stage-side at the house of blues in orlando….

  5. Clay says:

    Thanks for all the great comments today… seems Ms. Chapman really hit a nerve.

    Mom, I remember that Thanksgiving well. And I also remember that they were self-described “teetotalers” who didn’t serve any wine with dinner. I thought you and Dad were going to sneak out the back door! :-)

  6. pegclifton says:

    Somehow, I blocked that memory :)

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