People know Syd Barrett as the founding father of the epic band Pink Floyd and of his eventual split from the band in 1968, but little else is commonly known about this music legend.
Roger Keith Barrett was born on 6 January, 1946. As a child he grew up near to where Roger Waters lived and both their mothers were friends. From an early age Syd (a nickname that effectively became his real name) showed an interest in music, learning the ukulele, banjo and guitar. He also showed a talent for art and painting. Even after founding a band with Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright (all of whom he'd known previously and who had musical experience) they still had no real name to speak of. Syd then decided to name the new band after two unknown American blues players, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. By using their first names they became Pink Floyd.
The Pink Floyd Era
Syd then proceeded to write the band's first hit singles such as 'See Emily Play' and 'Candy and a Currant Bun' along with most of their first album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn which included such songs as 'Astronomy Domine', 'Lucifer Sam', and the amazing 'Interstellar Overdrive' (though it is a shortened version from the full 16 minute and 46 second original). It is believed that Syd himself also did some of the cover art for their first album. It was during this time that Syd had been taking numerous drugs, particularly LSD, and slowly he began to lose his mind. After several embarrassing stage performances in which Syd forgot the lyrics and the music he was supposed to be playing, the band and himself started to go their separate ways. Firstly, they got him to only do studio work, asking David Gilmour to do the live shows. This era of the five Floyds was shortlived, however, and Syd left to go his own way during the making of the album A Saucerful Full of Secrets.
The Solo Years
After leaving Pink Floyd, Syd went into seclusion for some time before returning to the studio to record again. After about a year or so of work Syd released his first solo album The Madcap Laughs in 1970 which actually was partially backed both musically and financially by Roger Waters and David Gilmour. The recording of this album was difficult because Syd was so inconsistent in the studio. His mind was so far gone that he could never do the same thing twice and it took upwards of 11 takes on some songs to get a decent version.
Syd was back in the studio a few months later with help from Rick Wright and David Gilmour. The more organized sessions resulted in Syd's second solo album, Barrett. The album was a bit more structured than his previous solo album yet still met with minimal success in the music industry, though Syd's loyal fans couldn't get enough of it.
After the release of Barrett, Syd returned to seclusion and in the last few years of his life lived a fairly isolated life away from fans and the media. However, Syd's popularity started to rise over that time, as people discovered his albums such as Opel, a collection of various live studio takes from the sessions for his first solo albums. The other major factor in Syd's rising recognition was the fact that one of Pink Floyd's most famous albums, Wish You Were Here was written by their singer and songwriter at the time (Roger Waters) as a tribute to Syd. Syd was the 'Crazy Diamond' and all of the songs relate to him.
Syd died in July, 2006, of pancreatic cancer.
One cannot overlook the role that Syd Barrett played in shaping modern music. The creation of Pink Floyd and songs such as the whimsical 'Effervescing Elephant' (Barrett), and the ever popular 'Gigolo Aunt' (Barrett) and 'Octopus' (The Madcap Laughs) have firmly cemented this 'crazy diamond' in music history.