John Perry Barlow, Lyricist for Grateful Dead, Passes Away at 70

John Perry Barlow, best known for his work as a lyricist for the Grateful Dead, has passed away at 70. He passed peacefully in his sleep.

 

At age 15, he met Bob Weir, a founding member of the Grateful Dead. In 1971, the two began writing together. This was during the time that well known GD lyricist Robert Hunter and Weir were not getting along. Some of their hits included “Black-Throated Wind,” “Mexicali Blues,” and “Cassidy.”

In 1990, Barlow would form Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). It was set up to fight for digital-rights online, and an internet free of government control. His work truly helped shape the internet as it is today.

Read it in full below.

With a broken heart I have to announce that EFF’s founder, visionary, and our ongoing inspiration, John Perry Barlow, passed away quietly in his sleep this morning. We will miss Barlow and his wisdom for decades to come, and he will always be an integral part of EFF.

It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the Internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow’s vision and leadership. He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.

Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the Internet could solve all of humanity’s problems without causing any more. As someone who spent the past 27 years working with him at EFF, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth. Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to focus on the latter: “I knew it’s also true that a good way to invent the future is to predict it. So I predicted Utopia, hoping to give Liberty a running start before the laws of Moore and Metcalfe delivered up what Ed Snowden now correctly calls ‘turn-key totalitarianism.’”

Barlow’s lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the Internet into “a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth . . . a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”

In the days and weeks to come, we will be talking and writing more about what an extraordinary role Barlow played for the Internet and the world. And as always, we will continue the work to fulfill his dream.

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