John Perry Barlow on Cassidy
Then my father began to die. He went into the hospital in Salt Lake City and I stayed on the ranch feeding cows and keeping the feed trails open with an ancient Allis-Chalmers bulldozer. The snow was three and a half feet deep on the level and blown into concrete castles around the haystacks.
Bobby [Weir] was anxious for me to join him in California, but between the hardest winter in ten years and my father’s diminishing future, I couldn’t see how I was going to do it. I told him I’d try to complete the unfinished songs, Cassidy among them, at a distance.
On the 18th of February, I was told that my father’s demise was imminent and that I would have to get to Salt Lake. Before I could get away, however, I would have to plow snow from enough stackyards to feed the herd for however long I might be gone. I fired up the bulldozer in a dawn so cold it seemed the air might break. I spent a long day in a cloud of whirling ice crystals, hypnotized by the steady 2600 rpm howl of its engine, and, sometime in the afternoon, the repeating chords of Cassidy.
I thought a lot about my father and what we were and had been to one another. I thought about delicately balanced dance of necessary dualities. And for some reason, I started thinking about Neal [Cassady], four years dead and still charging around America on the hot wheels of legend.
Somewhere in there, the words to Cassidy arrived, complete and intact. I just found myself singing the song as though I’d known it for years.
And here’s the Dead from 1980 playing an acoustic version:
Grateful Dead, Music, Writing