Guided Reading through Music - Fast Car by Tracy Chapman

Music is such an incredibly powerful tool in the classroom. I have previously blogged plenty of ideas about using music in the classroom. A few months ago, along with John Murray, I blogged about using the song 'Wasn't Expecting That' by Jamie Lawson as a stimulus in class. You can read it here. Another song in the charts currently that could be used in the same way is the remake of Fast Car, originally performed by Tracey Chapman. A song that has an interesting story to discuss. Here is the original -

Here is the version currently in the charts by Jonas Blue Feat Dakota

Here are the lyrics and some questions to consider -

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

  • Who do you think the singer is speaking to?
  • Is the singer happy? How do you know?
  • What do you think the deal is?
  • Why do you think they repeatedly use the word maybe? Why is this word effective?
  • Any place is better than where? 
You got a fast car
I got a plan to get us out of here
I've been working at the convenience store
Managed to save just a little bit of money
Won't have to drive too far
Just 'cross the border and into the city
You and I can both get jobs
And finally see what it means to be living

  • What is the plan?
  • What is a convenience store? Why do you think the singer wants to leave?
  • Where do they want to go? 
  • Where do you think they live now?
  • Why do they want to go to the city?
  • What job do you think they want?
See my old man's got a problem
He lives with the bottle that's the way it is
He says his body's too old for working
His body's too young to look like his
My mama went off and left him
She wanted more from life than he could give
I said somebody's got to take care of him
So I quit school and that's what I did

  • What is the problem with the singer's Dad?
  • How old do you think he is?
  • How old do you think he looks? Why do you think this?
  • Why did the Mum leave? 
  • What sacrifices did this make the singer make?
  • How do you think the singer feels towards these sacrifices?
  • Why does the singer want to escape?
You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so we can fly away?
We gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way

So remember when we were driving driving in your car
Speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

  • What does the fast car symbolise?
  • How has the singer's desire to leave change? 
  • Why is the singer now presenting an ultimatum? 
  • How does the singer feel in the car?
  • Why does she feel this way?
  • Where have they travelled to? 
  • What does 'round mean? Why has it been written like this?
  • Why has the word 'someone' been repeated?
You got a fast car
We go cruising, entertain ourselves
You still ain't got a job
And I work in a market as a checkout girl
I know things will get better
You'll find work and I'll get promoted
We'll move out of the shelter
Buy a bigger house and live in the suburbs

  • Has life in the city changed? If so, how?
  • Is it better or worse? Why do you think this?
  • Where do they live? 
  • Do you think the singer is hopeful? How do you know?
You got a fast car

I got a job that pays all our bills

You stay out drinking late at the bar

See more of your friends than you do of your kids

I'd always hoped for better

Thought maybe together you and me find it

I got no plans I ain't going nowhere

So take your fast car and keep on driving 

  • Do you think the singer is male or female?
  • What has changed?
  • What other words can we use to describe the singer? Is she still hopeful? Is she still hopeful towards her partner?
  • What can we infer about the partner? How is he different to the singer?
  • What does the last line mean? What decision has the singer made? Why do you think this has happened? 
  • How does this reflect what happened to her own parents? 
You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so you can fly away?
You gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way

  • Why has this verse changed from 'we' to 'you'?
Reflections on the whole song -
  • Do you think the song is positive or negative?
  • Do you think the singer's dreams of city life was all it lived up to be?
  • Did the singers hopeful attitude change as the song progressed?
  • What do you think the meaning of the song is?
  • What does the fast car symbolise?

I think it is a really interesting activity to take something the children are interested - a song, and deconstruct the message and ideas behind it. As a song, it will also have some poetic features that you can discuss such as rhythm and rhyme. With this song, however, it is the discussion behind the story and the message it tries to portray that intrigues me.

I would be interested to know what your children think. There are two sides to every story, so what would the partner have to say. What would his story show??? 


  1. Love this idea, thanks. Any other lyrics you'd recommend? You'd obviously need a song with some kind of narrative. Camouflage by Stan Ridgeway springs to mind, certainly for KS3.

  2. Fiona Clifford6 March 2016 at 19:49

    I am so excited to do this with my Year 8/9 class next week now. They love this song! Thank you so much!

  3. One of my all time favourites songs and such a fab idea to use it like this. Can't wait to try it out on my y5s. I'm on the hunt for othrs too so will share if I come up with any.


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