Pink Floyd co-founder Roger "Syd" Barrett died Friday (July 7) at the age of 60, reportedly due to complications from diabetes. The artist, who left Pink Floyd in the late 1960s after his mental healt
Pink Floyd co-founder Roger "Syd" Barrett died Friday (July 7) at the age of 60, reportedly due to complications from diabetes. The artist, who left Pink Floyd in the late 1960s after his mental health began to decline, spent the better part of the past 30 years living in seclusion with his mother in Cambridge, where he was born on Jan. 6, 1946.
"The band are naturally very upset and sad to learn of Syd Barrett’s death," the surviving members of Pink Floyd said in a statement. "Syd was the guiding light of the early band lineup and leaves a legacy which continues to inspire."
Pink Floyd began life in 1965 as most unassuming U.K. bands of the era did: as a run-of-the-mill blue rock combo. Led by the enigmatic Barrett and staffed by bassist Roger Waters, keyboardist Rick Wright and drummer Nick Mason, Pink Floyd quickly began to push the boundaries of conventional rock, attracting underground acclaim for their trippy live shows.
Barrett proved himself a true genius, blending elements of pop and psychedelia on early singles such as "See Emily Play" with mysterious, almost light-hearted lyrics. Pink Floyd's 1967 debut album "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" still stands as one of the best psychedelic rock albums ever, driven by Barrett's oddball narratives and the band's skill with both long jams and perfect pop nuggets.
But as Barrett's intake of LSD increased, his behavior became increasingly peculiar (especially in a live setting, where he'd often lapse into a zombie-like state), so much so that the rest of Pink Floyd were no longer able to work with him.
It was at this point that guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour joined the band, allowing Pink Floyd to continue playing live while Barrett worked out his problems. The rest of the group hoped Barrett would at least still be able to write songs, but this too proved to be impossible, and he was dropped from Pink Floyd entirely by early 1968.
Gilmour and members of Soft Machine helped the fragile singer through two solo albums released in 1970, "The Madcap Laughs" and "Barrett," on which he teetered between lucidity and madness. But his off-kilter ingenuity shined through on tracks like "Wouldn't You Miss Me (Dark Globe)," "Octopus," "Gigolo Aunt," "Terrapin," "Effervescing Elephant" and "Baby Lemonade," which would influence generations of singer/songwriters and rock bands alike.
By 1974, Barrett was beset by a myriad of mental problems and retreated to Cambridge, rarely to be seen in public again except to run errands or chat briefly with the Pink Floyd devotees who would knock on his front door, hoping for a glimpse of their idol.
However, he remained an influence on his former bandmates, who dedicated the song "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" and the 1975 album "Wish You Were Here" to him. Barrett showed up unannounced during recording sessions for the album, but due to his weight gain and hairless appearance, was at first not even recognized by the rest of the group.
In later years, Barrett lived off royalties from the Pink Floyd albums on which he played, as well as compilations and concert albums featuring his compositions. At their reunion performance during last summer's Live 8 benefit, Gilmour, Waters, Wright and Mason performed "Wish You Were Here" in Barrett's honor. Gilmour also performed the solo Barrett track "Dominoes" live during his spring world tour.
Aside from his two studio albums, Barrett's music can also be heard on the 1988 EMI outtakes compilation "Opel" and the 1993 boxed set "Crazy Diamond," which featured additional previously unreleased material. The 2001 collection "The Best of Syd Barrett: Wouldn't You Miss Me?" offered a never-before-issued song, "Bob Dylan Blues," reportedly found on a reel of tape that had been in Gilmour's possession for 30 years.
"Do find time today to play some of Syd's songs and to remember him as the madcap genius who made us all smile with his wonderfully eccentric songs about bikes, gnomes and scarecrows," Gilmour wrote on his Web site. "His career was painfully short, yet he touched more people than he could ever know."
"Syd was a lovely guy and a unique talent," added Waters. "He leaves behind a body of work that is both very touching and very deep and which will shine on forever."
"I can't tell you how sad I feel," wrote David Bowie on his Web site. "Syd was a major inspiration for me. His impact on my thinking was enormous. A major regret is that I never got to know him." Bowie covered "See Emily Play" on his 1973 album "Pin-Ups."