The group: Isaac Cates and the Ordained
The song: "Hold On"
The story: Kansas City gospel singer Isaac Cates grew up hearing his grandparents hum to the traditional gospel song, "Hold On."
"It's birthed out of the African experience of singing a story of encouragement," Cates says.
In the midst of tragedies, injustices and natural disasters filling the daily news cycle, Cates felt the song's message of hope was particularly poignant right now.
"Things are not the greatest right now, but I had to remind people that, historically, in the country and the world, they've been worse," he says.
In the accompanying video, scenes of violence — images from the Holocaust and videos of police brutality and riots — are interspersed with a video of Cates and the Ordained. All dressed in black, they are seated at first. But as emotion and volume build, they stand and sway together, eyes closed, arms wrapped around each other.
"I wanted to sing it from the black experience, which has a lot to do with that moan [you hear]," he says. "I wanted you to be able to feel it, that pain, the angst. The perseverance."
In the face of trauma, Cates says, some people have a temptation to despair. But the idea of holding on offers alternatives.
"For some people, it's hold on to your faith. Hold on to your patience. For some people, it's hold on to your mouth, hold on to your post you're getting ready to make on social media, because you may not be in the right state of mind."
The resolving messages are to "fight on," and that "everything is going to be all right."
"You think about the Civil Rights movement," Case says. "That was a whole fight. But wasn't a fight with literal fists, it was a fight with process. It doesn't happen overnight."
Story of a Song is a regular segment on KCUR 89.3 in which Kansas City musicians tell the story behind a song they have written or are performing.