Baby Can I Hold You
‘Sorry, is all that you can say’. The iconic first phrase of the hit music single that was given to the world by folk singer Tracy Chapman in 1988. ‘Baby Can I Hold You’, is the third track off of her first studio album that was simply titled ‘Tracy Chapman’. The studio album that made history was released just three years after she first appeared on a stage in 1985.
On May 3rd, 1985, Chapman was the opening act for Linda Tillery at the Boston Strand Theatre. She was, however, still busy with her B. A. degree in Anthropology and African Studies, which she would go on to finish in 1987. But her opening act caught the attention of Charles Koppelman, a businessman, musician, and music producer, who signed her up with SBK Publishing in 1986.
It was this partnership that led to her first record. In 1987, after she graduated from Tufts University. Koppelman helped Chapman to get a deal with Elektra Records. And just one year after that, we were all blessed with the vocal genius that is Tracy Chapman. That first album got her six Grammy nominations, of which she took home three.
Symbolism and Success
The universal appeal of Baby Can I Hold You is a result of the fact that its meaning can be easily comprehended by almost everyone. It talks about our longing to be treated properly by someone we’re in love with and to be told the things we need to hear at the right time.
The song has been covered by a range of different artists, including Boyzone, Ronan Keating, Neil Diamond, Sanchez, and Andrea Martin. Chapman also re-recorded it as a duet with Luciano Pavarotti as part of an album called Pavarotti and Friends for Cambodia and Tibet in 2000.
Most of the musicians who tackled Baby Can I Hold You were very lucky with it and enjoyed rave reviews. In fact, I’d be tempted to check this site while that good fortune held if I were them! But the same cannot be said of Nicki Minaj, the actress/model/rapper born in Trinidad and Tobago who’s found success in the USA.
A Suspicious Leak in 2018
Minaj inserted a section of Baby Can I Hold You in a song she wrote called Sorry which featured Nas, the American entrepreneur, rapper, and songwriter, in 2018. Minaj mistakenly thought the section she used was from a song called Sorry by Shelly Thunder, the one-time first lady of the New York dancehall/reggae scene.
Minaj didn’t include the song she wrote called Sorry on the fourth studio album she released, Queen, because of clearance issues, but the track got leaked to Funkmaster Flex just after that record dropped in August 2018. Two months later, Chapman sued Minaj for copyright infringement, accusing the rapper of purposefully leaking it after being denied clearance to use the sample.
September 2020 saw a judge ruling in Minaj’s favour, saying that the rapper’s actions constituted fair use rather than copyright infringement, but three months later Minaj paid Chapman just US$450 000 to avoid a trial.