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Tracy Chapman's Bassist Shares Details from Their Emotional Grammys Reunion 16 Years in the Making (Exclusive)

“When we got to the first rehearsal, we had tears in our eyes,” bassist Larry Klein tells PEOPLE

<p>Kevin Winter/Getty; Steve Granitz/WireImage</p>

Kevin Winter/Getty; Steve Granitz/WireImage

Tracy Chapman and her band returned to the stage Sunday night at the 66th annual Grammy Awards.

After making only a handful of appearances over the last decade, the singer-songwriter, 59, joined Luke Combs to perform "Fast Car," which originally was released in 1988. Bassist Larry Klein tells PEOPLE that reuniting with Chapman was “incredibly moving” for him.

“When we got to the first rehearsal, we had tears in our eyes,” he shares with PEOPLE. “I hadn’t worked with her since we made Our Bright Future in 2008.”

Related: Tracy Chapman Delivers Rare 'Fast Car' Performance with Luke Combs at 2024 Grammys

<p>Kevin Winter/Getty</p>

Kevin Winter/Getty

Being on stage at the Grammys was a “beautiful” experience for Klein, 68, especially when he saw “how reverent” Combs, 33, was toward Chapman.

“‘Fast Car’ was what made him [Combs] want to become a musician,” Klein says. “Life can make us a bit more numb every day. Kafka said, ‘A book should be an axe for the frozen sea within us.’ Great songs like ‘Fast Car’ re-awaken our humanity. There was something deeply meaningful about playing it in this setting at the Grammys.”

Related: Luke Combs Thanks 'Supernatural Songwriter' Tracy Chapman for Supporting His Cover of 'Fast Car'

Klein recalls first meeting Chapman and the emotions that came with hearing her music. He says when he was asked to play on her first album, he was supposed to work with another artist but he changed his plans for Chapman.

“I was already booked to play on another album. When I told David Kershenbaum this, he said ‘let me send a cassette over to you,’” Klein explains. “It had two songs; ‘Revolution’ and ‘Baby’ on it. Just guitar and vocal. I listened once and called him back and said, ‘I can do Tracy’s album,’ and called to cancel working on the other album.”

He continues, “I immediately heard greatness on that little cassette.”

Related: Tracy Chapman Reveals What She Thinks About Luke Combs' Chart-Topping Country Cover of 'Fast Car'

For two decades, Klein and Chapman worked together, and Klein says her music never failed to amaze him. Coming together to deliver a performance — which received an overwhelming standing ovation from the crowd — was nostalgic for Klein.

“I remembered that when Tracy first played me the songs on that album, ‘Sing For You’ made me cry,” he says before adding: “Her language as a songwriter on that album immediately struck me as being a rare blend of simplicity and depth. It went straight to my heart then, and it still does.”

<p>John Shearer/Getty</p>

John Shearer/Getty

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In December, Combs exclusively told PEOPLE that he began performing “Fast Car,” which he released in April 2023, because it invoked happy childhood memories with his father, Chester Combs.

"When I was 5 years old, my dad and I would be in his truck, and he would always play music for me. He had a Tracy Chapman cassette tape, and 'Fast Car' is one of the first songs I remember," the North Carolina native told PEOPLE. "I’ve always been a huge fan of it and think of my dad and our time together when I hear it."

"I always thought it was one of the best songs of all time, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised," Combs said. "But there’s nothing like Tracy’s version, so I thought it would just be a nice complement to the original but never really expected mine to take off quite the way it did."

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