Want to make creations as awesome as this one?


Leon Bridges on Overcoming Childhood Isolation and Finding His Voice: ‘You Can’t Teach Soul

Lesson Standards

TEKS: 9.1(A), 9.2(A), 9.2(B), 9.3, 9.4(C), 9.4(E), 9.4(F), 9.4(G), 9.5(C), 9.5(D), 9.5(G), 9.5(H), 9.6(B), 9.6(C), 9.9(C)

Lesson Objective

  • After an initial reading and discussion of the article, students will be able to identify and restate its key ideas and details.

Language Objective

  • I can compare topics and details, included in two stories.
  • I can compare topics and details with past, present and future societal details.

Learning Intention

  • I am learning how to make connections to ideas and other texts and society.

Success Criteria

  • I will read an article and identify details from the text that relates to society by marking the text
  • In your interactive journal, go to a blank page.

Do Now Activity

Do Now: Leon Bridges

Describe the music’s sound; themes; comparisons/connections to other artists’ work they know; emotional effects. Be ready to share you response with the class

What type of music do you connect to the most?Which type of music do you feel that you can relate to?

Ms. Campion's Music

  • Indie
  • Classic Rock
  • Some Pop
  • Alternative

Preview: Intro to Leon Bridges

  • It should help you understand what we are going to talk about.
  • In your worksheet respond to THE QUESTION UNDER Video Preview: Introduction to Text
  • Soul music is a genre of music that arose in the United States among the African American community in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Its origins are based in the self-expressive and confident declarations made by African Americans while fighting for equality during the Civil Rights Movement.
  • It combines elements of jazz, gospel, and rhythm and blues. It usually features catchy rhythms and improvisation.

Guided Note Taking

  • Bridges often performs in 1950’s style clothing, including wide-brim felt hats; high-waisted, pressed suit pants and matching jackets; and polished leather shoes.
  • This style echoes the clothing worn by soul singing sensations of the same decade, such as Sam Cooke.

Guided Note Taking



extremely happy


someone excluded from society; an outcast


genuine or true, especially true to one’s own nature or values


a sign over the entrance of a theater announcing what’s playing


to try out in order to demonstrate skill or talent

More Vocabulary


something that shows respect and admiration for someone


reluctant to speak or show one's feelings

Leon Bridges on Overcoming Childhood Isolation and Finding His Voice: ‘You Can't Teach Soul’ In black and white, analog tape players whirl. The singer warms up his voice with a gospel "whoa" to awaken rural spirits. He gently tunes his guitar, sheepishly scrutinizes the camera, steps to the microphone, and the scene shifts. The silhouette of Leon Bridges walks in slow motion down a darkened street under a faded marquee: leather shoes shined, slacks pressed, felt hat tilted at a rakish angle. The malt-shop soul beat shuffles. Then he belts out: "Baby, baby, baby, I'm coming home." This, the opening scene from the video for "Coming Home," was most people's first look at Bridges, a 25-year-old Fort Worth, Texas, native who sparked a furious bidding war shortly after a stream of the song premiered last fall on taste-making blog Gorilla Vs. Bear. Since then, he has become one of the most ballyhooed young soul singers in years, eliciting raves at South by Southwest and earning big synchs in iTunes and Beats commercials. Sam Cooke is the go-to comparison—a standard that seems ridiculously high until you actually hear him sing. "It's crazy—I didn't grow up with any of this music," reflects Bridges during a rare schedule break at home in Dallas. Since signing with Columbia in late 2014, he has toured constantly, including a spellbinding Late Late Show performance, in the lead-up to his debut, Coming Home, released June 23. "All this shows that you can't teach soul music. It has to be something already inside you. It's not something that you can try to do—it's who you are." A century ago, his effortlessness and out-of-nowhere ascent would've led people to suspect a crossroads pact with the devil a la blues legend Robert Johnson. But to sing soul like he does takes hard work and hard times. Painfully shy as a kid (and still noticeably reticent when he's not onstage), Bridges has a beatific gospel timbre that suggests church-choir experience

—but he was too insecure to actually audition. "I didn't think I could sing," says Bridges. "I knew I could do stuff here and there, but didn't think I was good enough to fit." He describes his childhood persona in much the same way—as a pariah. After his parents separated when he was 7, he split time between suburban Fort Worth and inner-city Dallas, where his father worked at a community center. His family was poor, and shortly after Hurricane Katrina, 10 relatives from New Orleans temporarily came to live with him, his mother and his half-sister. He was surrounded by people, but still felt alone. "I didn't know where I fit in," he says. "I didn't have any friends at school. People didn't want to be friends [with me]. I had no place." Bridges idly dreamed of escape, drowning himself in the same music other kids his age were listening to. He didn't even know of the soul greats he'd later be compared to. "Nostalgia for me isn't Sam Cooke," he says, "as much as it's listening to a Ginuwine song or hearing Dallas hip-hop and remembering dancing to it in my garage." At a nearby community college, Bridges studied dance, inspired by seeing his dad moonwalk as a kid, he says. He picked up singing and guitar as a hobby at first, and eventually began playing at open mics and small shows. His sound evolved from neo-soul, to folky R&B to traditional soul with horn—ideal for the last slow dance of the night. "A friend asked if Sam Cooke was an inspiration. I'd never listened, but I wanted to know my roots, so I looked him up on YouTube and Pandora," says Bridges. "Once I heard it, I saw it— that was the music that I wanted to write." But after a couple of years playing locally, Bridges struggled to attract more than 20 people to shows. He bused tables and lived at home. After his mother lost her medical-field job, he got a second one washing dishes. Then he met Austin Jenkins, guitarist from Austin psych-rock band White Denim, at a Fort Worth bar. He noticed Bridges' singular '50s fashion style

—crisp slacks, starched collars, high-waist jeans, exquisite vintage suits. ("It all started when one of my mom's older friends gave me his childhood clothes when I was a teenager," says Bridges of his look. "It's funny when people think it's just a marketing scheme.") They took a photo, had a beer and figured they would probably never meet again—until Jenkins randomly stumbled upon Bridges two weeks later at a local dive, where he was playing to a crowd of five. The first song he played? "Coming Home." "He's singing to you, not at you," says Jenkins, who co-produced Coming Home with fellow White Denim partner Joshua Block, recording live on all-analog gear, including a soundboard once owned by The Grateful Dead. "He listened to Texas blues, gospel and R&B, and filtered it through himself. It's authentic and direct." The songs on Coming Home are somehow simultaneously urgent and nostalgic, smiling and tearful, conjuring forgotten memories of a vanished America. "Twistin and Groovin" describes the meeting of his grandparents: "Up under that red dress are legs long as the bayou trees/She got a golden smile, I know she's the one for me in the room," he sings. "Brown Skin Girl" is a love letter to his ex-girlfriend. "Lisa Sawyer" pays tribute to his 1963-born mom of the same name. One of his proudest moments in a year full of them was paying off her debt in January. "I don't like to write flashy soul songs," says Bridges. "I'm writing from the heart, stories about family and truth. I just want people to see a genuine person."

A Summary

Leon Bridges is an unlikely success story. At age 25, he rose from obscurity to unanimous acclaim and record label bidding wars. A soul singer from Fort Worth, Texas, Bridges didn’t grow up with this music. He didn’t even grow up singing. In fact, he thought he wasn’t good enough to audition for the church choir. As a kid, Bridges was an outcast, having few friends and feeling isolated within his large family. Musically, he gravitated toward what was popular in his day and only picked up singing as a hobby. Slowly, he found his style and, once he was introduced to Sam Cooke, realized exactly the kind of music he wanted to make. However, this did not instantly lead to success. He spent many years playing mostly empty bars before meeting the Austin-based producer that helped him record his first album, Coming Home, which pays tribute to his grandparents, his mom, and an ex-girlfriend.