John Perry Barlow

John Perry Barlow

At his home in California, USA, December 2010
Born October 3, 1947 (1947-10-03) (age 64)
Sublette County, Wyoming, United States
Occupation lyricist, essayist
Nationality American
Period 1971-1995 (lyrics)
1990-present (essays)
Subjects Internet (essays)

John Perry Barlow (born October 3, 1947) is an American poet and essayist, a retired Wyoming cattle rancher, and a cyberlibertarian[1] political activist who has been associated with both the Democratic and Republican parties. He is also a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead and a founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Since May 1998, he has been a Fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.



Born in Sublette County, Wyoming, Barlow attended elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse. He was a student at the Fountain Valley School in Colorado. There Barlow met Bob Weir, who would later join the music group the Grateful Dead. Weir and Barlow maintained contact throughout the years; a frequent visitor to Timothy Leary's facility in Millbrook, New York, Barlow introduced the musical group to Leary in 1967. In 1969, Barlow graduated with high honors in comparative religion from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and spent two years traveling. In 1971, he began practicing animal husbandry in Cora, Wyoming, at his family's Bar Cross Land and Livestock Company. He sold that business in 1988.

The seeds of the Barlow-Weir collaboration were sown at a Grateful Dead show at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, in February 1971. Until this point, Weir had mostly worked with resident Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Hunter preferred that those who sang his songs stuck to his "canonical" lyrics rather than improvising additions or rearranging words. A feud erupted backstage over a couplet in "Sugar Magnolia" from the band's most recent release (most likely "She can dance a Cajun rhythm/Jump like a Willys in four wheel drive"), culminating in a disgruntled Hunter summoning Barlow and telling him "take him (Weir) -- he's yours.[2]" In the fall of 1971, with a deal for a solo album in hand and only two songs completed, Weir and Barlow began to write together for the first time.

Fueled by massive amounts of Wild Turkey[citation needed] and a traditional Native American creativity spell recommended by band friend Rolling Thunder, the twosome hammered out such enduring songs as "Cassidy," "Mexicali Blues," and "Black Throated Wind," all three of which would remain in the repertoires of the Grateful Dead and Weir's varied solo projects for years to come. Other songs to emerge from the Weir-Barlow collaboration include "Let It Grow," "The Music Never Stopped," "Estimated Prophet," "I Need A Miracle," "Lost Sailor," "Saint of Circumstance," and "Throwing Stones." Barlow also did collaborations with Grateful Dead keyboardists Brent Mydland then later Vince Welnick.

In 1986, Barlow joined The WELL online community, then known for a strong Deadhead presence. He served on the company's board of directors for several years. In 1990, Barlow founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) along with fellow digital-rights activists John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor. As a founder of EFF, Barlow helped publicize the Secret Service raid on Steve Jackson Games. Barlow's involvement is later documented in the non-fiction book The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier (1992) by Bruce Sterling.[3] EFF later sponsored the ground-breaking case Steve Jackson Games, Inc. v. United States Secret Service. Steve Jackson Games won the case in 1993.

He married Elaine Parker Barlow, with whom he had three daughters: Amelia Rose, Anna Winter, and Leah Justine. Elaine and John were separated in 1992. He was engaged to Dr. Cynthia Horner, whom he met at a convention center. She died in 1994 from a heart arrhythmia, apparently caused by undetected viral cardiomyopathy.[4]

Barlow was a good friend of John F. Kennedy Jr.[5]


Barlow is a former chairman of the Sublette County Republican Party and served as western Wyoming campaign coordinator for Dick Cheney during his 1978 Congressional campaign.[6] By the early 2000s, Barlow was unable to reconcile his ardent libertarianism with the prevailing neoconservative movement and "didn't feel tempted to vote for Bush"; after an arrest for possession of a small quantity of marijuana while traveling, he joined the Democratic Party and publicly committed himself to outright political activism for the first time since his spell with the Republican Party.[citation needed] Barlow has subsequently declared that he is a Republican.[7] He has also claimed on many occasions to be an anarchist.[8] Barlow has said he voted for Natural Law Party Presidential candidate John Hagelin in 2000 after discovering in the voting booth that his friend Nat Goldhaber was Hagelin's running mate.[9] He said in 2004: "I'm embarrassed for my country that in my entire voting life, there has never been a major-party candidate whom I felt I could vote for. All of my presidential votes, whether for George Wallace, Dick Gregory, or John Hagelin, have been protest votes."[9] Barlow said that year he was "voting for John Kerry, though with little enthusiasm."[9]

Current work

Barlow currently serves as vice-chairman of the EFF's board of directors. The EFF was designed to mediate the "inevitable conflicts that have begun to occur on the border between Cyberspace and the physical world."[10] They were trying to build a legal wall that would separate and protect the Internet from territorial government, and especially from the U.S. government.[11]

He is a Fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and Diamond Management & Technology Consultants, and a member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. He spends much of his time on the road, lecturing and consulting about civil rights, freedom of speech, the state of the internet and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He delivered lectures and panel discussions at TWiT Live,[12] TedxHamburg, Hamburg (Germany),[13] Greenfest SF,[14] Civitas (Norwegian think tank),[15] Internet Society (NY Chapter, New York),[16] the USC Center on Public Diplomacy,[17] and the European Graduate School (EGS), Saas-Fee, Switzerland.[18]

Barlow also serves on the advisory boards of Clear Path International, TTI/Vanguard and the global company Touch Light Media[19] founded by Anita Ondine.

He is listed as a Managing Partner at Algae Systems[20] of Nevada, a company dedicated to commercializing a novel method for growing microalgae offshore as a biofuel feedstock. He is listed as a member of the faculty of the European Graduate School (EGS), in Saas-Fee, Wallis, Switzerland.

Barlow sits on the advisory board of the Marijuana Policy Project.[21]


From 1971 until 1995, Barlow wrote lyrics for the Grateful Dead, mostly through his relationship with Bob Weir. Among others, Barlow's songs include "Cassidy" (about Neal Cassady and Cassidy Law),[22] "Estimated Prophet", "Black-Throated Wind", "Hell in a Bucket", "Mexicali Blues", "The Music Never Stopped", and "Throwing Stones".

His writings include "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace", which was written in response to the enactment of the Communications Decency Act in 1996 as the EFF saw the law as a threat to the independence and sovereignty of cyberspace. He argued that the cyberspace legal order would reflect the ethical deliberation of the community instead of the coercive power that characterized real-space governance.[23] Since online "identities have no bodies," they found it inappropriate to obtain order in the cyberspace by physical coercion. [24] Instead ethics, enlightened self-interest and the commonwealth were the elements they believed to create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace.[23] Later, articles such as "The Economy of Ideas" were also widely circulated in providing a vision for human creativity online.

Barlow has written extensively for Wired magazine, as well as The New York Times, Nerve, and Communications of the ACM. In his writings, he explained the wonder of the Internet. The Internet to him is more than a computer network. It is a place that he called an "electronic frontier".[1] "He frequently wrote in language that echoed Henry Stanley's African diary. "Imagine discovering a continent so vast that it may have no end to its dimensions. Imagine a new world with more resources than all our future greed might exhaust, more opportunities than there will ever be entrepreneurs enough to exploit, and a peculiar kind of real estate that expands with development. Imagine a place where trespassers leave no footprints, where goods can be stolen infinite number of times and yet remain in the possession of their original owners, where business you never heard of can own the history of your personal affairs.""[25] He has wanted to encourage and provoke youngsters to explore the cyberspace through his writing.

Barlow has also returned to writing lyrics, most recently collaborating with The String Cheese Incident's mandolinist and vocalist Michael Kang, including their song "Desert Dawn." Barlow is often seen at String Cheese Incident concerts mixing with the fans and members in the band.

He has also recently collaborated with the Chicago-based jamband Mr. Blotto on their release Barlow Shanghai. He is an advisor to the project. [26]

Further source

  • Goldsmith, Jack and Wu, Tim (February 24, 2006). Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World. USA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-1951-5266-2. 


  1. ^ a b Goldsmith and Wu, 2006, p.17
  2. ^ McNally, Dennis: A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, page 394. Broadway Books, 2002
  3. ^
  4. ^ A story at minute 37 about how Barlow met his fiancée at a convention center, and what happened afterward, in Convention, episode 74. This American Life, aired August 30, 1997, Chicago Public Radio and Ira Glass. October 17, 2003. 
  5. ^ CNN's American Morning: Interview With John Perry Barlow. July 2, 2003 &(transcript)
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Colbert Report, episode first aired March 26, 2007.
  8. ^ Barlow, John Perry (interview) and Jayakar, Roshni (interviewer) (December 6, 2000). "What stops free flow of information is dangerous". Business Today (Living Media India). Archived from the original on 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  9. ^ a b c "Who's Getting Your Vote?". Reason. 2004-11. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  10. ^ Goldsmith and Wu, 2006, p.18
  11. ^ Goldsmith and Wu, 2006, p.19
  12. ^ Barlow, John Perry, Leo Laporte and Tom Merritt (2010-10-20). "The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the state of freedom on the internet". TWiT Live. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  13. ^ Barlow, John Perry (2010-05-27). "The Power of the Internet". TedxHamburg. Hamburg, Germany. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  14. ^ Amorim, João, Daniel Pinchbeck, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Tiokasin Ghosthorse and John Perry Barlow (2010-04-10). "Conscious Evolution to Practical Solutions". Greenfest SF. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  15. ^ Barlow, John Perry (2009-04-24). "Internet, Property and the Freedom of Speech". Civitas (Norwegian think tank). Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  16. ^ Barlow, John Perry (2008-10-27). "The First Internet Election". Internet Society (New York Chapter). Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  17. ^ Barlow, John Perry and John Gilmore (2006-11-14). "Fulbright Chair Speaker Series". USC Center on Public Diplomacy. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  18. ^ Barlow, John Perry (2006-06-12). "Independence Declaration of Cyberspace". European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Barlow, John Perry. "Cassidy's Tale". Literary Kicks: Beat Connections in Music ( Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  23. ^ a b Goldsmith and Wu, 2006, p.20
  24. ^ Barlow, John Perry (1996-02-08). "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace". Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  25. ^ Goldsmith and Wu, 2006, p.17-18
  26. ^ official website

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • John Perry Barlow — John Perry Barlow, né le 3 octobre 1947 à Jackson (Wyoming), est un poète, essayiste, éleveur à la retraite, militant politique et ancien parolier des Grateful Dead. Il est l un des cofondateurs de l Electronic Frontier Foundation, et est resté… …   Wikipédia en Français

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