Audio Interviews Blog Journalism News

Wyoming’s Estimated Prophet: John Perry Barlow

John Perry Barlow (1947-2018)

By Aaron Davis

[Note: In 2005, I had the pleasure of a candid phone interview with John Perry Barlow, and subsequently meeting Mr. Barlow a couple of months later at the Pink Garter Theatre in Jackson Hole. The conversation was the crux of my first cover story at a newspaper as a freelance journalist. I love The Grateful Dead and the lore than surrounds the band, and talking shop with a fellow songwriter that I had so much respect for meant a lot to me. This piece was originally published on July 27, 2005 in Planet Jackson Hole Weekly followed by an extended Q&A version that was re-published August 16, 2005 on For the first time, thirty minutes of audio from the interview can be streamed at the bottom of this page, or stream it here.]


Uncharted waters have to be discovered earlier than they will exist. John Perry Barlow – 57-year previous pc guru, journalist, lyricist, advisor, economist, speaker, father, former rancher, environmentalist and nomad – is a Cora, Wyoming (population = 70) native that has all the time cast forward with the artistic perseverance to make waves. Recognized by Grateful Lifeless fans as the co-lyricist, with Bob Weir, of some the Grateful Lifeless’s most recognized anthems, he penned “Cassidy,” “Mexicali Blues,” “Looks Like Rain” and “Estimated Prophet” amongst others.

But to know Barlow as only a Grateful Lifeless lyricist is missing out on an array of colorful tidbits about Mr. Barlow. He has lived a multi-dimensional life because the previous days of growing up as a rowdy younger hippie in cowboy nation, son of Norman Barlow, president of the Wyoming Senate in 1960-61. Barlow took off to the east and graduated from Wesleyan College in Middletown, Conn., in 1969 with high honors in comparative faith before operating the Bar Cross Land and Livestock Company, a large cow-calf operation in Wyoming that he bought in 1988. He then dove into the computer world, proper because the Internet was but a sprout, and has been credited with coining the term “cyberspace” to describe it.

Across the similar time, in 1990, he and Mitchell Kapor founded the Electronic Frontier Basis, a corporation that promotes freedom of expression in digital media, which he continues to serve as vice chairman.

Barlow has written for a variety of publications, together with Communications of the ACM, Mondo 2000, The New York Occasions, and Time. He has been on the masthead of Wired Journal because it was founded. His piece on the way forward for copyright, “The Economy of Ideas,” is taught in many regulation faculties, and his “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” is posted on hundreds of Websites.

In 1997, he was a Fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, and since 1998, he has been a Berkman Fellow on the Harvard Regulation Faculty. In June 1999, FutureBanker Magazine named him one of the 25 Most Influential Individuals in Financial Providers, regardless that he’s not in monetary providers.

Leslie Peterson, who has recognized Barlow since he was a kid, referred to as him “one character of a guy.” She continued, “He taught himself everything about the computer in what seemed like overnight. He has always been brilliant, a good horse hand, skier, extremely sophisticated and definitely irreverent.”

Childhood pal and architect John Carney stated, “You could always count on the most interesting people at Barlow’s ranch … a Buddhist monk, a rock ’n’ roll musician, a president’s son, people are attracted to him. John has always been frighteningly smart in my opinion … a smart ass too, so he got knocked around a bit as a kid.”

With this month[July2005)beingthe40thanniversaryofthebirthoftheGratefulDeadandthe10thanniversaryofthedeathofJerryGarciafansaroundthecountryarereflectinguponwhatmadethebandandtheirsongwritinglegendaryHere’sBarlowintrueformtalkingaboutsongwritinghisrelationshipwithBobWeirpoliticshispending4thAmendmentcaseandWyominginthe’60s[July2005)beingthe40thanniversaryofthebirthoftheGratefulDeadandthe10thanniversaryofthedeathofJerryGarciafansaroundthecountryarereflectinguponwhatmadethebandandtheirsongwritinglegendaryHere’sBarlowintrueformtalkingaboutsongwritinghisrelationshipwithBobWeirpoliticshispending4thAmendmentcaseandWyominginthe’60s[July2005)beingthe40thanniversaryofthebirthoftheGratefulDeadandthe10thanniversaryofthedeathofJerryGarciafansaroundthecountryarereflectinguponwhatmadethebandandtheirsongwritinglegendaryHere’sBarlowintrueformtalkingaboutsongwritinghisrelationshipwithBobWeirpoliticshispending4thAmendmentcaseandWyominginthe’60s[July2005)beingthe40thanniversaryofthebirthoftheGratefulDeadandthe10thanniversaryofthedeathofJerryGarciafansaroundthecountryarereflectinguponwhatmadethebandandtheirsongwritinglegendaryHere’sBarlowintrueformtalkingaboutsongwritinghisrelationshipwithBobWeirpoliticshispending4thAmendmentcaseandWyominginthe’60s

“Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”

— Excerpt from Barlow’s “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.” (1996)

So how the hell does a rural Wyoming cowboy child meet up with the Grateful Lifeless?

“I was a rebellious kid and my father was a politician,” Barlow started to elucidate. “Over the course of my fourteenth year my Mormon Boy Scout troop turned into a motorcycle gang. We all bought little Honda motorcycles. We thought we were a lot worse than we probably were, but the locals thought we were bad enough. My father was told that if he ever wanted to get re-elected anything, he was going to have to get me the hell out of sight. So he sent me off to prep school and there I met the guy [Bob Weir] who was going to become the rhythm guitar player for the Grateful Dead and he and I have been one another’s official best friend ever since.”

Barlow and Weir have been two rebelious peas in a pod – each having no capacity to comply with the principles. Weir ultimately acquired kicked out of Fountain Valley Faculty in Colorado Springs have been that they had met. Though Barlow needed to rebel and depart the varsity as an act of protest, the 2 didn’t reunite until after the Acid Exams.

“I had heard about them [acid tests] and was deeply offended along with everybody else in my sort of Eastern Orthodox Church of LSD,” Barlow mirrored. “We thought it was a very serious sacrament and should not be handed out in bathtubs for people to drink as much as they want.”

Barlow had met and develop into close buddies with LSD purveyor Dr. Timothy Leary while the west coast acid scene was taking shape. So when the Grateful Lifeless determined to go east in 1967, Barlow was there to introduce them to a new pal.

“I first saw the Dead the first of June 1967 at a place called Champagne A Go Go which was a little club in New York which had about 160 seats. Then I took them up to Timothy Leary’s estate a couple of days later in Millbrook, New York and got to know them all a lot better…and reconnected with my friend, Bobby Weir. Though not before we got the shit kicked out of ourselves sitting underneath the Washington Bridge by some toughs from Long Island who thought our hair was too long. He tried to get them to stop by getting them to sing ‘Hare Krishna’ which almost worked.”

With LSD turning into a serious player in the social scene in the late 60s it’s arduous to imagine the Grateful Lifeless with out it, especially with Owsley Stanley round. His obsession with dosing as many individuals as potential stretched the boundaries further than anyone had anticipated. However perhaps there was a tangible philosophy behind it all. If everybody expanded their senses and could escape their own actuality for a couple of, nicely several hours, wouldn’t all the things change?

“We all had this experience that made us feel like the world that we perceived with our conventional awareness was actually kind of a dream that overlay another reality that was not being taken into account by any of the beliefs or institutions that we knew. In those heady days, I think we all thought that once this insight was generally shared, everything would change. And gradually it is and has. If we had any sense we would have realized that you weren’t going to make a change that fundamental overnight. And, in fact, I think you could make the argument that everything that is going on politically in America is a continuation of that war that was established at that point between the 50s and 60s. Right now it’s still the 50s versus the 60s.”

Around 1971, Weir started making an attempt to write down songs with Robert Hunter, but they couldn’t get alongside. By this time, Barlow had fell in thick with the Lifeless and had been bumming round with them for several years. Caught in the midst of a songwriting battle between Hunter and Weir, Barlow discovered himself in an unlikely position.

“Hunter turned to me and said, ‘why don’t you take him, he’s your friend!’ I said, ‘well I’m not sure I know how to write songs.” He stated, ‘well you know how to write poetry,’ which was more-or-less true as a result of I had been a poet in school, principally as a result of I felt like I might journey round on a motorbike to the ladies’s schools in New England and recite poetry of my very own composition and do o.okay. I advised [Robert Hunter] that I might give it a shot, went out and tried to put in writing a track, and it was ‘Mexicali Blues.’”

“Mexicali Blues” was the first of over 25 songs he would go on to pen for the Lifeless, a majority of which have been co-written on his ranch in Wyoming. This was a time when the Lifeless have been going by way of a cowboy period, so a superb cowboy music appeared to fit in just fantastic. But typically the songwriting was extra of a wrestle, actually.

“Weir and I truly received right into a fist struggle over one music. Feel Like a Stranger…I used to be really towards that music. It simply appeared like (laughs)…like nothing I needed to put in writing a track about when it began to return, but he was inspired by the beginnings of it and needed to make it type of…Properly, he truly turned out to be right, as he was just enough of the time so I should have recognized to oppose him as strenuous as I did once I thought he was absolutely lifeless mistaken.

Barlow’s catalog of unimaginable reminiscences with the Lifeless is greater than a guide’s value of material, but he opted to share a couple of songwriting reminiscences that stood out as a number of the most memorable, for numerous causes.

“There was one written in Wyoming, well in large part, which was a song called Cassidy. The chords to that song were written in Marin County in this funny little ranch that we had up in West Marin. There was a girl living on the ranch that had a child the night that Weir was coming up with the chords, and the child was named Cassidy. And subsequently Bobby came out to Wyoming where we were trying to write songs for his solo album called “Ace.” We have been in an remoted homestead house on one other part of the ranch from the primary operation…my ranch…and snowed in and type of crazy, making an attempt to write down songs together really for the primary time. We fooled around with some phrases for Cassidy and nothing a lot came. Then he had to depart and begin recording some of these items as a result of he had a decent studio schedule, and we didn’t have that one completed.

I came upon that my father was dying…took him right down to the hospital in Salt Lake. I had to exit with the Caterpillar and plow out a bunch of stack yards in order that they’d have the ability to get the hay sleds in and out whereas I used to be gone if I had to be down there with him for a while. Whereas I used to be out plowing, I stored operating these chords round in my head fascinated by the woman Cassidy that had been born and in addition about Neal Cassidy who had died not lengthy before, who had been an incredible hero of ours. He’s certainly one of most exceptional human beings I have ever met. And serious about how we are available to the world and exit of the world and the way there’s a type of continuity. Whereas I used to be on the market plowing snow the words simply shaped themselves right into a melody that went with the chords and there it was. It simply appeared. Then I headed out to observe my father die.”

Not solely was Barlow writing tunes for the Lifeless within the 1980s, however he was additionally starting a family, ranching, and teaming up with Dick Cheney on various environmental points for Wyoming—together with passing the Wyoming Wilderness Act and ridding the Wind River Mountains of acid rain. Yeah, that’s right, Cheney, but the co-conspirators didn’t get along on all the issues, which ultimately led Barlow to write down “Throwing Stones.”

“That’s the only explicitly political music we ever wrote. And the story behind that was that I was having a critical argument with Dick Cheney at that time, who I’d help get elected and been a reasonably good congressman for the stuff that I used to be eager about, which was environmental stuff.

Then he received into this obsession with the Russians and this conviction that we had a conflict of cultures that had to be resolved by whatever means, and so he helped base the MX Missile in Wyoming. And I acquired so freaked out that anyone was so decided to win a political battle that he was actually prepared to endanger all of the life on planet Earth that I felt like I needed to say one thing…so I wrote that track. And like I say, I owe Dick quite a bit for that track.”

Lately Barlow is a busy man, working as a advisor and software designer for a British firm whereas also discovering time to put in writing some tunes for String Cheese Incident and hold together with his three daughters at Cheese exhibits. Questioning his experience with SCI surfaced combined feelings.

“They unilaterally changed some things that I wasn’t comfortable with having changed, so I’m not sure that I want to do that anymore…but I probably will, I love those guys.”

Barlow seems to be as near Weir as he’s ever been and talks of penning more songs collectively have taken place, but most importantly, in consideration of their friendship.

“The last time we tried, neither of us were happy with the results and it jeopardized our relationship. At a certain point you decide whether it’s more important to preserve and old friendship that to write a song. Given the various kinds of trouble we’ve had with one another over the years I don’t know if there’s much we could do to destroy that friendship. But nevertheless, it’s a lot like being married. It’s actually a lot like being married. Bobby has a very interesting mind. It’s irregular. Sometimes it can seem like he’s just being perverse, and sometimes he is just being perverse. But sometimes he really is on to something and will take quite a long time for it to be visible.”

[News Feb 7, 2018: As said by The Guardian, “John Perry Barlow, ‘visionary’ Internet pioneer, press freedom advocate and Grateful Dead lyricist, has died aged 70.”]