Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett dies aged 60

Syd Barrett in 1967
Barrett went on to release two solo albums after leaving Pink Floyd
Syd Barrett, one of the original members of legendary rock group Pink Floyd, has died at the age of 60 from complications arising from diabetes.

The guitarist was the band's first creative force and an influential songwriter, writing their early hits.

He joined Pink Floyd in 1965 but left three years later after one album. He went on to live as a recluse, with his mental deterioration blamed on drugs.

"He died very peacefully a couple of days ago," the band's spokeswoman said.

"There will be a private family funeral."

Pink Floyd in 1967
Barrett (second right) would become reclusive in the 1970s
A statement from Pink Floyd said: "The band are naturally very upset and sad to learn of Syd Barrett's death.

"Syd was the guiding light of the early band line-up and leaves a legacy which continues to inspire."

He was born Roger Barrett in Cambridge and met future bandmates Roger Waters and David Gilmour at school in Cambridge.

He originally busked folk songs around Europe with Gilmour before enrolling at the Camberwell School of Art in London.

Upon joining the Pink Floyd Sound - as they were originally known - he composed See Emily Play and Arnold Layne, both from 1967, as well as most of their album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

'Mental breakdown'

However, his drug intake soon began to affect his place in the band.

I don't think we would have the David Bowie we have today if it wasn't for Syd
Tim Willis, Syd Barrett's biographer

Often he would be seen standing on stage with his guitar dangling from his neck, staring into the crowd.

At one stage he was unhappy about appearing on Top of the Pops and walked out of a session recording in July 1967 after "freaking out".

"That really was the first sign of his complete mental breakdown," producer Richard Buskin wrote later.

"He never did come back into the studio any more after that, meaning that I had a hell of a hard time with the recordings".

He did turn up again, ironically on the day the other band members were recording a tribute to him, Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

Just as Pink Floyd were about to achieve worldwide success, he retreated from public life to return to Cambridge.

'Influence continues'

Members of the band felt his breakdown might have happened even if he had not used drugs but felt that along with the pressures of fame, the substances he took probably acted as a catalyst.

After he finally drifted out of the music scene, his whereabouts were unknown for two decades, until he turned out to be living with his mother.

Syd Barrett's biographer Tim Willis paid tribute to Barrett's legacy, saying: "I don't think we would have the David Bowie we have today if it wasn't for Syd.

"Arnold Lane is still one of Bowie's favourites. He sang it the other day, I believe. And in fact Bowie was very much a kind of clone of Syd in the early years," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

"His influence is still going. New bands discover him all the time, there's always a Syd revival going on.

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