Co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Grateful Dead lyricist, died Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, according to multiple news sources. He was 70. 

The cause of death has not been reported, but Barlow had been in poor health after suffering a heart attack in 2015, according to NBC News. 

Barlow attended the same high school as future Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir. The two remained friends and Weir tapped Barlow to write lyrics for several songs, including “Cassidy,” “Mexicali Blues,” and “Black-Throated Wind.” 

He also introduced the group to counter-culture psychologist and LSD advocate, Timothy Leary. 


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During the 1980s he was active on the WELL, an early online community with a strong presence of Grateful Dead fans. He connected with John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, and in 1990 they formed the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The non-profit organization continues to champion internet civil liberties against government overreach and private efforts to suppress online expression. 

“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,” Cindy Cohn, the EFF’s executive director, said in a statement. 

Barlow was born Oct. 3, 1947, in Sublette County, Wyoming. He was raised as a Mormon, but turned away from the religion during his early adulthood. 

His father was a Republican state legislator, and Barlow often identified as a Republican throughout his life. However, his personal politics were unorthodox and far more libertarian. 

For free-thinkers such as himself, he saw the Internet as the ultimate forum for the free exchange of ideas. In 1996 he published the essay, “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.” 

“We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before,” he wrote. 

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