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Leon Bridges' Message Goes Beyond Love for His Mom

Photograph by Getty Images

Full disclosure: I am a white woman raising two white sons. Leon Bridges is a black millennial musician who is a throwback to soul singers from an era before even my Gen-X childhood. Think Sam Cooke or Otis Redding. 1960s smooth.

If either one of my boys grew up to be like Leon Bridges, well, I would rest a happy mama.

I mention race, because I think it is integral to the discussion of Bridges' music. His tunes are full of literal "doo wop" refrains, making one think of a simpler era, a gentler time. But that time wasn't simple or gentle for black Americans. And though he's singing like it's back then, he's really talking about now.

Here's Bridges' recent performance on" Jimmy Kimmel Live," of one of his more upbeat songs, "Twistin' and Groovin"':

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Bridges' roots are southern and full of soul. He grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, and his mother had her start in Louisiana, which you know all about—even the name of the street where she lived—if you've listened to his ballad "Lisa Sawyer." He describes his mother beautifully, enviably even. We moms should all be so great that we move our children to make great art.

One way we can try and do better as mothers is raise children—sons and daughters—with hope and faith and awareness that the experience of others is as valid as our own, even when it is completely different from our own.

In his just released video for "River," Bridges posted on his Facebook page a personal message about what the song and video mean to him. He sees them as a message of hope in a time of great unrest and injustice in the world. A time, not so coincidentally, a lot like the civil rights era his music harkens back to, as if transporting his listeners.

He writes, ". . . I reflected on the depiction of black communities in our media and particular experiences within my own life. However, unlike the captured images which tend to represent only part of the story, I wanted to showcase that through all the injustice, there's real hope in the world."

To maintain hope and encourage hope in others is a gift. Leon Bridges is blessed with that gift, separate and apart from his genuine musical talent. Listening to his words, his melodic voice, restores faith that things will be alright. His music doesn't ignore the difficulties, instead, it encourages us to see them, think about them, try and do better, be better.

"The world leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, girl. You're the only one I want to be around," he sings in "Coming Home."

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One way we can try and do better as mothers is raise children—sons and daughters—with hope and faith and awareness that the experience of others is as valid as our own, even when it is completely different from our own. We must acknowledge, as Bridges does so well, that even in challenging times and experiences, there is still room for hope.

And a side of doo wop to go with it. Swoon.

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