John Perry Barlow on Cassidy

I came across this beautifully written piece from Barlow describing the origins of the song 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.

Read the full piece about Neal Cassady, Cassidy Law and the song, on LitKicks here.

And here’s the Dead from 1980 playing an acoustic version:

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