Remembering John Perry Barlow (1947–2018)

Posted on in On Our Radar by Rob Sidon

John Perry Barlow

Graduation From Meatspace

John Perry Barlow was a friend (see our November 2016, Common Ground interview) who died on February 7th at the age of 70. On April 8 his kin staged a beautiful tribute at the Fillmore dubbed “Barlow’s Graduation From Meatspace.” The evening kicked off with an introduction by Wavy Gravy and included shares from the likes of Carolyn Garcia, a.k.a. Mountain Girl, his three daughters (Amelia Rose, Anna Winter, Leah Justine), and his loyal squire Alden Bevington, among others. The ceremonies, poetic and sweet, included a full-screen taped farewell from the wheelchair-bound and LSD-infused Barlow himself, as well as video remembrances appropriately ranging from Ramblin’ Jack Elliot to Edward Snowden.

The music was stellar, with a vast lineup that included Talking Heads keyboardist Jerry Harrison and Barlow’s childhood best friend and songwriting partner, guitarist Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead. The cast of musical all-stars included the sons of John Lennon (Sean Ono), Willie Nelson (Lukas), and Paul Simon (Harper). The long and touching evening included Barlow songs such as “Hell in a Bucket,” “Estimated Prophet,” and “Feels Like a Stranger,” and concluded with a deeply loved favorite, “Cassidy.”

With “Cassidy” ringing in my ears I researched the lyrics and stumbled onto one of Barlow’s many skillfully written web essays and decided to reprint it. “Cassidy’s Tale: In Memoriam” provides a surprising explanation of this gem and its multifold contexts. We think it also provides a fitting glimpse into Barlow’s creative process and artistic soul.

“Cassidy’s Tale: In Memoriam” was originally written in 1990 as a response to Ken Schumacher’s request for reminiscences from people who’d known the legendary Neal Cassady, whose demise in February 1968 partly inspired the song. This essay was posted on in 1994.

–In gratitude, Rob Sidon

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