Activist and EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow has died

Saul Bowman
February 10, 2018

John Perry Barlow, poet, activist and longtime lyricist for the Grateful Dead, has passed away at the age of 70.

Barlow was 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.

EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn said Barlow was sometimes "held up as a straw man for a kind of naïve techno-utopianism" that believed the Internet could solve all of humanity's problems without causing any additional issues.

"John Barlow wrote a number of wonderful songs with Bob Weir for the Dead, from "Weather Report Suite" to "The Music Never Stopped" to "Feel Like a Stranger' and lots more, but he meant more than that", says Dennis McNally, Grateful Dead historian and author of the band's official biography "A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead".

Barlow said he had made a decision to try his hand at writing lyrics mostly to attract women.


Born in Wyoming on October 3, 1947, Barlow graduated with a degree in comparative religion from Wesleyan University. "Cassidy", "Mexicali Blues", Black-Throated Wind" and "Looks Like Rain" are among the dozens of songs Barlow helped pen.

He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1969 and eventually returned to Wyoming, where he ran a cattle ranch for almost two decades and dabbled in libertarian and Republican politics, working on a congressional campaign for Richard B. Cheney, the future vice president in the George W. Bush administration.

A world-renowned advocate for a wide-open internet, a songwriter for the Grateful Dead, Wyoming native and former cattle rancher from Pinedale died in his sleep Wednesday.

Kapor and Barlow began collaborating after both were sought out by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents trying to investigate computer crimes. John had a way of taking life's most hard things and framing them as challenges, therefore adventures - by their nature awakening and maybe even fun.

Barlow, an emeritus fellow of the Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University, was also a founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation in San Francisco, which promotes adversarial reporting and internet advocacy. "He'll live on in the songs we wrote". His survivors include three daughters, Amelia, Anna and Leah, and a granddaughter.

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