“Hold onto me, never let go… I’ll be here by your side, every second of our time. Hold onto me, never let go.”
14-year old Yancy wrote these lyrics in hopes that her song would save the life of Marcus Kanye, a young man who had developed a life-threatening disease. Even though she had never met her mother’s coworker, Yancy felt a unique connection to Marcus and wanted to give him hope.
“I felt sympathy toward him and just wanted to help,” she said. “I had faith and wanted him to feel better and brighten his spirit. The best way to do this was through music because it has a big impact on people and acts as a medicine for the human spirit.”
Music is a gift, and Yancy sees it as her responsibility to share that gift with the world. Once her third grade Little Kids Rock teacher introduced music into her life at PS. 98 in Inwood, Manhattan, Yancy not only found her voice.
“I remember the first time I practiced the song, there was one lyric that hit me emotionally,” she explains. “My voice sank as I struggled to utter the simple words: hold onto me, never let go… I’ll be here by your side, every second of our time…”
As each day passed, Yancy checked in with her mom, eager to learn about Marcus’s health. As Marcus suffered, losing weight, his vision and even his hearing, Yancy practiced.
“He was on my mind every second, and I wanted every chord and every lyric to be perfect,” Yancy said. “I tried to keep a positive attitude reminding myself that he was going to keep moving forward in life and be OK.”
Yancy’s mother recorded the song and sent it to Marcus’s family, unsure if he would even be able to hear the song that her daughter had poured out of her heart. It lifted his family’s spirits in his final days, and left a permanent mark on their hearts.
Marcus passed away shortly thereafter, and though he was not able to escape his illness, the song had a profound effect on Marcus and his family. They were touched that a little girl whom they had never met had shown so much compassion. “I’m just glad that he was able to hear the song before he passed away,” Yancy said.
Music did not save Marcus’s life, but it changed Yancy’s. It allowed her to externalize feelings of sorrow and confusion that filled her heart and taught her that though her song was not medicine for the body, it indeed was medicine for the human spirit – others’ and her own.