John Perry Barlow, Grateful Dead Lyricist & Internet Rights Activist, Dies at 70

John Perry Barlow
Ann E. Yow-Dyson/Getty Images

John Perry Barlow photographed at the annual PC Forum in Tucson, Ariz. in 1991. 

John Perry Barlow, best known in the music world as the lyricist for several Grateful Dead songs, passed away Wednesday (Feb. 7). He was 70 years old.

Barlow “passed away quietly in his sleep,” according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the digital rights non-profit he co-founded. Beyond his songwriting career, Barlow was also a retired Wyoming cattle rancher and political activist, revolutionizing the public's concept of cyberspace.

Barlow met Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir when he was a student at Fountain Valley School in Colorado. The two began co-writing songs years later after a feud between Weir and the band’s lyricist at the time, Robert Hunter. Barlow helped pen major Dead tunes such as “Cassidy,” “Looks Like Rain” and “Black-Throated Wind,” working with the group until it disbanded in 1995.

The writer then turned into an internet pioneer, publishing the cyberlibertanian “A Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace” in 1996, which calls for a government-free internet. He also co-founded the Freedom of the Press Foundation, working actively to support free speech in the press.

Barlow is survived by his three daughters. 


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