Elektra also thought "Born to Fight" would finally get mass black audiences hip to the singer-songwriter. "A concerted effort is being made to make radio part of the marketing mix and to put some familiarity between Tracy and the black community," Elektra black music VP Doug Daniels was quoted as saying in Billboard back in January when the single was released. "I don't think the whole album will work with black radio, but the single will."

As anyone who's listened to "Born to Fight" no doubt knows, Daniels' prediction was almost laughable. The song, an up-tempo rural blues with muted trumpet fills, would clash bizarrely against the disco and soul sounds of black radio airwaves. Needless to say, "Born to Fight" never made it onto Billboard's black singles chart.

At this point, reaching a mass black audience appears to be a no-win situation for Chapman. She could make the stylistic compromises necessary to rate airtime on black radio and be accused of selling out by critics who salivate over her acoustic-based sound.

Or, she could hope that black radio will take its blinders off and offer her more than just a trial position in the mail-room portion of the charts. Of course, as long as Janet Jackson and Babyface are setting the standards, she'll be waiting a long time for an opening. Tracy Chapman will perform at the Mesa Amphitheatre on Tuesday, May 22. Show time is 7:30 p.m.

No matter how hard-core her protest lyrics are, Chuck D implies, they're not going to move black people unless she packages them in a black radio-ready style.

Chapman wasn't thrilled about being turned into a compact-disc conscience for the millions of whites who bought her debut album.

ROCKIN' ROOKIE DOUG STONE ROLLS FROM NOW... v5-16-90

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