John Perry Barlow, lyricist for the Grateful Dead and “visionary” internet pioneer, press freedom advocate and Grateful Dead lyricist, died last Wednesday February 7, aged 70.
Barlow co-wrote songs with members of the Grateful Dead from 1971 until the group disbanded in 1995. Some of tunes he helped pen include “Cassidy,” “Heaven Help the Fool,” “Black-Throated Wind,” “Looks Like Rain,” and “Mexicali Blues.” He also wrote four songs on the band’s 1989 album titled “Built to Last” and an additional song, “We Can Run,” on the 2004 reissue.
Barlow was also named as a Guardian ‘Open 20’ fighter for internet freedom in 2012 because of his work to establish the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which defends online liberties. The organisation announced Barlow died in his sleep on Wednesday morning.
Since his death, Barlow has been praised for his contribution to the Grateful Dead and his visionary approach to the internet.
Bob Weird, of the Grateful Dead, tweeted: “This life is fleeting, as we all know – the Muse we serve is not. John had a way of taking life’s most difficult things and framing them as challenges, therefore adventures. He was to be admired for that, even emulated. He’ll live on in the songs we wrote…”
“He had a unique and compelling credential—“junior lyricist of the Grateful Dead” was the way he put it—and he wielded it like an all-access laminate to the concert hall of life,” wrote Steven Levy on Wired. “His rock and roll bona fides was only one strand of a web of myths he pulled out of his suede jacket like a well-rolled joint: cowboy, poet, romantic, family man, philosopher, and ultimately, the bard of the digital revolution. He was an influential voice and intimate participant in the early days of Wired, a co-founder and spiritual inspiration for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the guy who promoted cyberspace as deftly as Steve Jobs hyped Apple. By the time he was done, he was more famous for proselytizing the internet than he was for co-writing “Cassidy” and other Dead classics.
“Barlow’s impact is such that even those who aren’t familiar with his name have long been grappling with his vision of the networked world, one where speech and creativity flow unfettered, and truth targets power with the speed of a bullet. But Barlow won’t be remembered only for the way he rustled prose, ideas or lyrics. IRL, he was bigger than life.”