HAPPY 62nd TO ONE OF THE ARCHITECTS OF GRATEFUL DEAD MUSIC
Amongst a goodly portion of the Grateful Dead's fan base, the "Barlow-Weir" pairing is just as beloved as the more widely celebrated "Hunter-Garcia" duo. What's so striking is just how different these two dyads prove in theory and practice, in many ways forming the poles of the Dead's musical world. Where Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia excel at embracing and gently reshaping classic forms, John Perry Barlow and Bob Weir's work functions more like mad scientist jazz, bringing a playful fluidity into the rock sphere, a framework built upon bebop's strong heads and interesting composed themes but also its tendency to springboard improvisation and instantaneous invention. As a lyricist, Barlow is clever, brainy even, but never in an off-putting way. His lyrics burrow into curious places, deliver us to lands previously unknown, or form a phalanx that pierces to the core of subjects like politics and love. His verses and spin on music have had an undying influence on multiple generations, being sung by literally millions across the planet, and like the best bards, his compositions retain their flavor and power still. Mr. Barlow turns 62 today and we couldn't let the day pass without offering up a hearty, heartfelt toast to the man.
We begin with a tune with seemingly infinite possibilities, "The Music Never Stopped," which has continued to mutate and spark with the Dead and countless others who've waded into it for decades.
This is perhaps the pinnacle of Caucasian reggae and the template for blue-eyed boys who dream of island rhythms everywhere.
"Estimated Prophet" (Pt. 2)
"Bringing me down/ I'm running aground/ Blind in the light of the interstate cars/ Passing me by/ The busses and semis/ Plunging like stones from a slingshot on Mars." This is opening stanza of "Black Throated Wind," one of THE great road songs of all time. Don't resist the urge to raise your thumb and wonder where the white lines might lead you.
Barlow is equally famous, if not more so, as a champion of Internet independence and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He has worked extensively in the field since the Web first got rolling, and here is talking about the nature of the Internet, along with a few thoughts on songwriting, electronic voting, pornography and more. This is one seriously brilliant cat!
Anyone else find it kinda surreal that "Hell In A Bucket" is available for the Rock Band video game? Guess we need new ways to "enjoy the ride" all the way down. The footage from the Bill Graham Tribute concert is grainy but the performance is spot-on.
Since we're in gloriously pissed off '80s mode already let's continue apace with "Throwing Stones."
Continue reading for more Barlow-Weir sweetness...