Song of the Week: New Beginning by Tracy Chapman

About the Artist

Tracy Chapman holds a special place in my heart as one of my all-time favorite musicians. In 1988, as I led a post-university vagabonding life, I would endlessly listen to a cassette of her debut album.  Her ‘sound’ is unique and songs meaningful, sometimes on a societal level, sometimes on a personal level.  Tracy tends to stay away from the spotlight and avoids social media, but is politically and socially active. In a 2009 interview with National Public Radio, 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.”

About the Song

I haven’t found much online concerning Tracy’s interpretation of this song, but I like the essential, timeless message of making a fresh start despite difficult circumstance.  It seems that parts of the world are often in as state of tragedy and despair and we need to constantly remind ourselves that a ‘new beginning’ is possible. It can be appropriate for many situations including a new year, the start of a semester, or adjusting to any challenging transition.


Notable Lyrics

  • The whole world’s broke and it ain’t worth fixing
  • Now don’t get me wrong I love life and living
    But when you wake up and look around at everything that’s going down
  • The world is broken into fragments and pieces
    That once were joined together in a unified whole
  • We can break the cycle – We can break the chain
  • We can share the myths the dream the prayer
    The notion that we can do better

Random Facts

  • The use of a didgeridoo in the “New Beginning” track was a source of controversy. Chapman was taught to play at the Didgeridoo University in Alice Springs  however the use of a didgeridoo by women is taboo in many aboriginal nations.
  • Tracy’s career started while she was a student at Tufts University. She would sometimes busk in her free time.  One of her classmates noticed her unique sound and mentioned it to his father…who happened to own the SBK record label.
  • She had chosen Tufts because she originally intended to become a veterinarian and they had a well-regarded veterinary school.
  • She had written more than 200 songs before she graduated.
  • Tufts hold an annual ‘New Beginnings’ Reflection event for graduating seniors named after this song.
  • She gained worldwide attention when she performed twice as long as expected at Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday after Stevie Wonder had to cancel because of a technical issue.  She had sold 250,000 before the concert.  She sold 2,000,000 in the two weeks following.

Additional Links


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