A song shows that in the midst of what ‘they say,’ what matters most is what one believes

Christopher Crain, a singer and songwriter, wrote “They Say,” an uplifting symphonic ballad in which his soulful voice drips sweetly on the melody.

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Chris Crain

Chris Crain, singer, songwriter and performing artist, was born with Brachial Plexus Palsy, and mastered the piano, drums and guitar, honing his craft despite the underdevelopment and limited use of his left arm and hand.

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They say, what I am is unacceptable

They say, only perfection is beautiful

But the truth is, beauty is found in everyone

I am beautiful, you’re beautiful

— “They Say” by Chris Crain

Like a dream, the words speak to me — lift my soul from the bitter ashes that can suffocate dreams too long deferred. They resurrect hopes slain or trampled on by life and time, by naysayers, by those who see us only through the prism of their jaded lens.

By those who see us as less than. As a square peg in a round hole. Societal misfits.

The words remind me, move me to seize the reins of my own future, to shake off the dust of unbelief and self-doubt and reclaim my destiny. To hope, even now. To believe again. To dream.

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Just don’t listen to what they have to say

Too much vanity in the world today

Find your own path, go your own way

You are beautiful, I am beautiful

The words remind me that in the midst of what “they say,” what matters most is what one believes. What we say to ourselves when we are reviled, disparaged or ridiculed for who we are, how we look or the way we talk.

Diminished in “their” eyes because of where we come from. Or because of a disability. Called ugly, dorky, stupid, poor, goofy, “retarded …” Deemed less than.

The lyrics are soul food. Even for an old soul like mine in need of a reminder of simple truths once spoken in love by loved ones since gone on, though my ears still long to hear the meditations of their hearts, which once filled mine with solace, divine purpose, passion.

They are the words of Christopher Crain. A 41-year-old singer, songwriter and multitalented performing artist, he knows a little bit about what “they say” and its potential to cripple the soul.

Born with brachial plexus palsy, Chris mastered the piano, drums and guitar, honing his craft in the church while growing up in Lumberton, Mississippi, despite the underdevelopment and limited use of his left arm and hand.

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He still remembers well the weight of shame he carried in silence for being born different. Those hot summer days in Mississippi when the other boys donned T-shirts or sleeveless tops, and he wore a sweater to try and hide his arm. He remembers the times he was teased and the fighting because of it. He also remembers eventually finding empowerment through music and discovering its ability to lift the soul, to inspire, heal.

Chris, who lives in Milwaukee with his wife and two school-age children, mentors youth through his free music and arts summer camps. He was running one of those summer camps a few years ago when he squashed the ridiculing of a little girl.

He extracted the words from the children’s dispute, penning “They Say,” an uplifting symphonic ballad in which his soulful voice drips sweetly on the melody — the way his mother used to sing at my grandfather’s Pentecostal church on Chicago’s West Side.

The song, which Chris hopes will inspire children and adults to transcend physical and emotional barriers, has been translated into 16 languages. He hopes to have it translated into 50.

“They Say” is, in my estimation, an anthem worth hearing — and singing — until it seeps deeply into the soul. It is for anyone who has ever felt marginalized. For anyone teetering on the edge of hope. For every ship simply in need of a tugboat to pull it into the deep and vast ocean of their dreams.

That was the message I took from my breakfast this past week with Chris, whom I hadn’t seen since he was about age 2 or 3. His mother, Jerry Crain, was one of the “prayer warriors,” the staunch church mothers I once prayed with on Tuesday and Friday mornings. Chris and I reminisce over breakfast — about life, about dreams, crossroads and hope.

I tell Chris, in between forkfuls of salmon cakes, how his mother, who is deceased, was my angel at one of my darkest hours. How she used to tell me, “The more the suffering, the bigger the blessing.” How she encouraged my soul.

He tells me how, in my words to him, he hears his mother still speaking to him. And in his words, I hear her still speaking to me.

Now is the time to come together

To stand for what we believe

Love was made to last forever

I am beautiful, you’re beautiful

Click here to hear, “They Say”

For more on Chris Crain, visit: chriscrain1music.com

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