Grateful Dead Lyricist John Perry Barlow Dead at 70
John Perry Barlow, who wrote lyrics for the Grateful Dead, has died at the age of 70. He worked with the band from 1971 until 1995, and wrote the songs “Cassidy, “Estimated Prophet,” “Hell in a Bucket,” "Mexicali Blues" and “Throwing Stones,” among others.
In 1990, Barlow, a lifelong political activist, co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting online civil liberties. Six years later he wrote “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” which became a keystone work in arguments surrounding internet freedom. He also co-founded the Freedom of the Press Foundation in 2012.
“With a broken heart I have to announce that EFF's founder, visionary and our ongoing inspiration, John Perry Barlow, passed away quietly in his sleep this morning,” the foundation’s Cindy Cohn wrote in a statement. “It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow’s vision and leadership. He always saw the internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.”
Barlow met Grateful Dead founding member Bob Weir at school in Colorado, and started co-writing with him after Weir fell out with the band's regular lyricist Robert Hunter. The partnership lasted until the band split 24 years later.
In 2013, Barlow explained how the band's fans led to his involvement with online activism. “The Deadheads were among the first users of the Internet," he told Against the Grain. "The way I began to think about community … can largely be attributed to my association with the Deadheads. The internet – more specifically a bulletin board on the internet known as the Well – had played a big role in developing their strong sense of community. I got on the Well looking for the community of Deadheads. I found them, but I also found something that felt like a small community, and I became a member of that community.”
Barlow also worked in the fields of marijuana policy reform, next-generation biofuels, water purification and financial transaction management, and was named one of the 25 most influential people in financial services by FutureBanker magazine in 1999. He was also involved in the annual Burning Man festival.