Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the day “November 17, 2010”

People Who Make A Difference: Dana Lyons

We can change the world using literature, movies, art, and music. Dana Lyons is a folk singer who is writing songs that matter, here on the West Coast and all over America. Dana lives up in Washington State and so I claim him for Left Coast Voices.

My family first heard of Dana Lyons when we were still living in Israel. We lived opposite a woman who has a brother who…it doesn’t matter. Deeply involved in creating a sustainable intentional community, we were easy prey for idealistic environmental songs.

But Dana Lyons is much more. A solitary vegan on the kibbutz, I had just lost a vote to build a dairy (I believe the vote was 45 for – 1 against) when my friend tried to cheer me up by playing the classic Cows with Guns. I had lost the vote, but made a new friend.

Dana Lyons became a firm family favorite, so a few months after moving to Berkeley, we were delighted to discover he would be playing in an Unitarian Church near us. When he walked in, we got the chance to introduce ourselves.

“So you’re my Israeli fans,” he quipped, all modesty. “I always wanted to meet you.” He then asked my oldest son (then seven) what his favorite song was. My son didn’t remember the name, but explained a political song about farmers protecting their land.

Dana was surprised at his choice and promised to sing Turn of the Wrench even though he hadn’t performed it for some time. I think he got lost at one point and launched into a great riff. I only hope someone recorded it for him.

Dana’s songs and ballads are political, environmental, tributes to activists he’s met. There are songs that are hilarious, poignant, profound, in-your-face. And Dana puts a lot of effort into writing songs that children can relate to, helping to bring through the next generation of left coast activist.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com






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