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*Tracy Chapman was born on this date in 1964. She is a Black lesbian and bisexual singer-and-songwriter. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Chapman began playing guitar and writing songs as a child.
She was accepted into "A Better Chance," the national resource for identifying, recruiting, and developing leaders among academically gifted nonwhite students. This opportunity enabled her to attend Wooster School in Connecticut and eventually Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. During college, Chapman began street-performing and playing her guitar in coffeehouses in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Before graduating from college, she released her first album, Tracy Chapman (1988), which was critically acclaimed. Soon after performing at the televised Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert in June of the same year, the album went multi-platinum and won four Grammy Awards. Besides 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M., Chapman's liberal politics proved enormously influential on American college campuses in the late '80s". Her follow-up album, Crossroads, was less commercially successful. In 1992 she released Matters of the Heart, and in 1995 New Beginning (which sold over 3 million copies in the U.S.) included the hit single "Give Me One Reason" which won the 1997 Grammy for Best Rock Song.
Chapman released Telling Stories in 2000; her sixth album was Let It Rain in 2002. In May 2004, her alma mater, Tufts University, honored her with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree for her contributions as a socially conscious and artistically-accomplished musician. Where You Live, Chapman's seventh studio album was released in September 2005.
Chapman is widely regarded as a politically and socially active musician. In a 2009 interview with the American radio network NPR, she said, "I'm approached by lots of organizations and lots of people who want me to support their various charitable efforts in some way. And I look at those requests, and I basically try to do what I can. And I have certain interests of my own, generally an interest in human rights." She has performed at numerous socially aware events and continues to do so.