Music as Explanation

by Eric Hughes

Perhaps a sliver of hope in this year of chaos is that we spend more time considering how to separate fact from fiction. We are getting better at discerning which influences to covet and which to ignore. Perhaps we read, view, and listen with increased care, tolerance, and understanding? For me, music has always been an important conduit to help me understand context. Lyrics and melody not only make me feel – their traditional impact – but help explain important issues and problems.

My two previous Splash Pad News posts, Music as a Destination and Music as a Diversion, listed the following online music sources: Facebook, YouTube, Pandora, Zoom, the Internet Archive, Reddit, Bandcamp, Instagram, and Internet Radio. This month’s listening recommendations are more clearly focused on music with both message and reason.

For this month’s hour-long Spotify playlist, Music as Explanation, I assembled a diverse group of songs that includes everything from Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On to Woody Guthrie’s Deportees to Beyoncé’s Freedom. You can listen to curated lists of songs like these on Spotify without a subscription, but in order to create playlists, which is what I’m doing for this and future articles, a subscription is required.


Barbara Dane is an Oakland resident and co-founder of Paredon Records – a record label that was founded to “publish recordings of cultural expressions, especially protests, in order to preserve them.” Spotify is now featuring a marvelous playlist of Paredon recordings and it’s available at this link.

Former Oakland resident Quinn DeVeaux writes and plays acoustic soul. You can hear his biting protest song “Holiday” here. “I can’t forget the face of Emmett Till, And all the faces they take from us still, The lives we lost for reasons I can’t say, I need a holiday…”

Kev Choice was a piano prodigy. He graduated from Skyline High School, earned two college degrees in music, and ended up back in Oakland where he has become a highly respected hiphop/jazz/classical writer, performer, and producer. Check out his tune “No Worries” here. The video was recorded in Oakland, including in the Grand Lake neighborhood.


Music to Life, an organization that was founded by Noel “Paul” Stookey (of Peter, Paul & Mary fame) and his daughter, Elizabeth Stookey Sunde, sits at the crossroads of music and social justice. Both the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley and the UC Berkeley Department of Music are important collaborators. Currently (8/1/20) they’re featuring a playlist of the “Top 50 Songs Against Police Misconducton their homepage.

The San Francisco Mime Troupe produces a “radio serial” called “Tales of the Resistance.” You can find it here. A sample show: “The Price of Infection”: Can Nurse Susie find a way to deliver vital antiviral medicine while navigating hospital bureaucracy and fending off the corrupt Capitalist Healthcare Conspiracy?

The Chester (Pennsylvania) Children’s Chorus is conducted by a former Swarthmore College music professor. Each participant gets instruction in music education in sightreading, theory, harmony, and music appreciation This is their song I Still Can’t Breathe. is a site that became popular originally as a way to share gaming experiences. It has also evolved into a flirty chat application and a go-to place to find live streaming Seattle and Portland protest marches. is a streaming application that has both a free and a paid subscription model. It is a great place to find entire live concerts, either live or pre-recorded. There are, for example, 412 concert recordings of Pearl Jam (with one of my favorite songwriters Eddie Vedder)!

Note: These are especially hard times for artists of any medium, and although I’m listing readily available and free sources of music, please be generous if you can. Most online musicians have PayPal or Venmo accounts, and your $5 or $10 donation may not seem like much, but multiplied by 100 viewers, it makes a BIG difference. You can also pay for or subscribe to albums and concert streams. Bandcamp runs fundraisers for artists, too.

Your suggestions and feedback are always welcome at – Eric Hughes

Eric Hughes has lived in the Grand Lake with his wife Priscilla since 1986. They have two grown sons who also live in Oakland. He’s a “finger-style” guitarist who has been playing for more than 50 years and is now retired from the computer software industry. In addition to his musical interests, Eric is Co-Chair of the Grand Lake Neighbors Neighborhood Council. Suggestions and feedback are always welcome and should be directed to

Editor’s Note: Eric is also responsible for the Grand Lake Improvement volunteers who periodically help out with clean-ups and landscaping on Grand Avenue between Mandana and Lake Park and, in addition, you’ve almost certainly seen him out in the commercial district scrubbing away graffitihis #1 pet peeve.