In Mother American Night: My Life in Crazy Times, a tender, scattershot memoir co-written with Robert Greenfield, the fact that Barlow, who died in February at 70, 'nearly became America’s first suicide bomber' is presented as a (thankful) near miss in a remarkably 'Zelig-like life...'It was a conservative impulse, but Barlow, in the grip of a breakdown, chose a radical solution. He figured that if he did something outrageous enough, people might 'take a hard look at where we were headed.'...He mixed up 25 pounds of explosives in a plastic bag, encased it in ball bearings and duct tape, and drove to Cambridge, Mass. He planned to climb into the lap of the bronze statue of John Harvard in Harvard Yard and blow himself up' ... In the late 1980s, decades after Barlow almost blew himself up to stop civilization from coming unraveled, he developed an intimate friendship with that charming huckster Timothy Leary. At Beverly Hills cocktail parties, Leary always introduced his cowboy friend the same way: 'Here’s Barlow. He’s an American.'
The newly-released memoir, Mother American Night: My Life in Crazy Times, follows Barlow, who passed away earlier this year, from his upbringing in Wyoming as 'ranching royalty,' through to the experience of writing his first song for the Grateful Dead (Mexicali Blues), up to the phone calls with hackers in the Legion of Doom that led him to work with Mitch Kapor in creating the Electronic Frontier Foundation—and beyond ... Mother American Night reads like a history of the culture clashes of the last fifty years: offline versus online, rural versus urban, government versus private life. As a rancher who ended up co-founding EFF and the Freedom of the Press Foundation as well as working as Dick Cheney’s campaign coordinator, one of Barlow’s most impressive qualities was straddling, and bringing together, these sometimes opposing cultures ... a helpful reminder of just how quickly the online spaces that Barlow helped define thirty years ago have shifted, and can shift again—for the better, if we work for it—wherever we come from, and whatever our background.
He came from political power, ran a cattle ranch while he wrote rock songs, befriended pop-culture icons and political movers-and-shakers, and became an internet pioneer ... contains one fascinating story after another, a exploration of America’s counterculture, its political underpinnings, its spirit of adventure.