John Perry Barlow, the writer who penned lyrics to several Grateful Dead songs, has died. Barlow—who was also a retired Wyoming cattle ranger and a cyberlibertarian political activist—passed away quietly in his sleep, according to a statement from Electronic Frontier Foundation, the non-profit digital rights group he co-founded. He was 70 years old. Barrow’s death follows a near-fatal 2015 heart attack, in which he flatlined for eight minutes. Barrow was born in Sublette County, Wyoming, to his parents Norman Barlow, a Republican state legislator, and his wife, Miriam. He grew up on the 22,000-acre Bar Cross Ranch, founded by his great uncle.
At age 15, Barlow became a student at the Fountain Valley School in Colorado, where he met Grateful Dead founding member Bob Weir. He later graduated from Wesleyan University in 1969 with an honors degree in comparative religion. Barlow began co-wroting songs with Weir in 1971, following a feud between Weir and then-resident Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Together, Barlow and Weir penned “Cassidy,” “Mexicali Blues,” “Black-Throated Wind,” and many more songs until the Dead’s dissolution in 1995. The same year Barlow became a Dead collaborator.
Barlow helped co-found the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which funds and supports free speech in the press. His writing has been published in Wired, the New York Times, Nerve, and more.