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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 found 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 (inhabitants = 70) native that has all the time cast forward with the artistic perseverance to make waves. Recognized by Grateful Lifeless followers because the co-lyricist, with Bob Weir, of some the Grateful Lifeless’s most acknowledged anthems, he penned “Cassidy,” “Mexicali Blues,” “Looks Like Rain” and “Estimated Prophet” among others.

But to know Barlow as only a Grateful Lifeless lyricist is missing out on an array of colourful 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 religion earlier than operating the Bar Cross Land and Livestock Firm, a large cow-calf operation in Wyoming that he bought in 1988. He then dove into the pc world, proper as the Internet was but a sprout, and has been credited with coining the time period “cyberspace” to explain it.

Around the similar time, in 1990, he and Mitchell Kapor founded the Digital 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, including Communications of the ACM, Mondo 2000, The New York Occasions, and Time. He has been on the masthead of Wired Magazine since it was based. His piece on the future of copyright, “The Economy of Ideas,” is taught in lots of regulation faculties, and his “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” is posted on hundreds of Web pages.

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

Leslie Peterson, who has recognized Barlow since he was a child, 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 good friend 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.”

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“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 capability to comply with the principles. Weir ultimately received kicked out of Fountain Valley Faculty in Colorado Springs have been that they had met. Although Barlow needed to insurgent and depart the varsity as an act of protest, the 2 didn’t reunite till after the Acid Checks.

“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 shut pals with LSD purveyor Dr. Timothy Leary while the west coast acid scene was taking shape. So when the Grateful Lifeless decided to go east in 1967, Barlow was there to introduce them to a brand 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 within the late 60s it’s exhausting to think about the Grateful Lifeless with out it, especially with Owsley Stanley around. His obsession with dosing as many individuals as attainable stretched the boundaries further than anyone had anticipated. But maybe there was a tangible philosophy behind all of it. If everybody expanded their senses and will escape their very own reality for a number of, nicely several hours, wouldn’t every part 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 began making an attempt to put in writing songs with Robert Hunter, however they couldn’t get along. By this time, Barlow had fell in thick with the Lifeless and had been bumming round with them for a number of years. Caught in the midst of a songwriting battle between Hunter and Weir, Barlow discovered himself in an unlikely place.

“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 because I felt like I might experience 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 informed [Robert Hunter] that I might give it a shot, went out and tried to put in writing a music, 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 means of a cowboy period, so a superb cowboy music seemed to fit in simply high quality. However typically the songwriting was more of a wrestle, literally.

“Weir and I truly acquired into a fist struggle over one music. Feel Like a Stranger…I used to be really towards that music. It simply seemed like (laughs)…like nothing I needed to write down a track about when it began to return, however 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 sufficient of the time so I should have recognized to oppose him as strenuous as I did once I thought he was absolutely lifeless fallacious.

Barlow’s catalog of unimaginable reminiscences with the Lifeless is greater than a e-book’s value of material, but he opted to share a couple of songwriting reminiscences that stood out as a few 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 isolated homestead home on another a 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 words for Cassidy and nothing a lot got here. Then he had to depart and start recording some of these items as a result of he had a decent studio schedule, and we didn’t have that one achieved.

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 so that they’d be capable of 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 those chords around in my head eager about the woman Cassidy that had been born and in addition about Neal Cassidy who had died not long before, who had been an awesome hero of ours. He’s one in every of most exceptional human beings I have ever met. And enthusiastic about how we are available to the world and exit of the world and the way there’s a type of continuity. Whereas I was out there plowing snow the phrases 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 in the 1980s, however he was also starting a family, ranching, and teaming up with Dick Cheney on quite a lot of environmental issues for Wyoming—together with passing the Wyoming Wilderness Act and ridding the Wind River Mountains of acid rain. Yeah, that’s proper, Cheney, however the co-conspirators didn’t get alongside on all the issues, which ultimately led Barlow to put in writing “Throwing Stones.”

“That’s the one 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 thinking about, which was environmental stuff.

Then he acquired into this obsession with the Russians and this conviction that we had a conflict of cultures that needed to be resolved by no matter means, and so he helped base the MX Missile in Wyoming. And I received so freaked out that any person was so determined to win a political battle that he was actually prepared to endanger all of the life on planet Earth that I felt like I had to say one thing…so I wrote that music. And like I say, I owe Dick quite a bit for that track.”

Nowadays Barlow is a busy man, working as a marketing consultant and software designer for a British firm while additionally finding 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 appears to be as close to Weir as he’s ever been and talks of penning more songs collectively have taken place, however most significantly, 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.”]