Dead Memories: John Perry Barlow Reflects on the Legacy of the Grateful Dead

John Perry Barlow on February 8, 2018

In the August 2005 issue of Relix, we honored both the 10th anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s passing and the 40th anniversary of the Grateful Dead’s formation by compiling memories from various members of the Dead circle, including Owsley “Bear” Stanley, Rock Scully, Bruce Hornsby, David Nelson, Dennis McNally, Blair Jackson and John Perry Barlow, the poet, activist and lyricist who passed away yesterday morning. Here, we remember Barlow with his own words on the legacy of the Grateful Dead from that 2005 issue. 

We thought it had been a long, strange trip in 1969—we didn’t know long nor strange. And now I think it’s finally over. The other day, I wrote the afterword to the Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, and that was a burdensome task, because I knew in writing it that it really was the last word. It was hard, and I have to say, we got a hell of a run out of it. 

It was just one of the most remarkable social institutions I’ve ever been around. By virtue of both its insanity and its unbelievable stability. It’s really ironic. I think we did manage to keep alive, over a critical period, a set of cultural beliefs that needed refuge following the ’60s. And I think that those cultural beliefs are now fairly widely disseminated and, in some respects, stronger than ever.

I don’t see them as well displayed among those folks who still think of themselves as Deadheads, but I see them a lot of other places. I mean, however rocky it’s been for the sons and daughters of the Grateful Dead family itself, I have to say, I meet children of Deadheads, and they’ve come out really alright—most of them more than alright—and I’m pleased with that.