Roger Keith Barrett
January 6, 1946 - Cambridge, England
July 7, 2006 - Cambridge, England
"I don't think I'm easy to talk about. I've got a very irregular head. And I'm not anything that you think I am anyway."
Jimi Hendrix, Amm (improvisational jazz group)
Pete Townshend (Who), Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
- Co-founder of Pink Floyd
- Appeared on first two Pink Floyd albums, recorded two solo albums after leaving the band
Life and Times:
Syd Barrett was the youngest of five children of a well known Cambridge physician and his wife, both of whom who encouraged his interest in music. The sudden death of his father when Barrett was 11 is believed to have been at least partly responsible for triggering the mental problems that plagued him as an adult.
In 1965, he brought a flair for musical innovation -- and the name Pink Floyd
-- to a group whose stock-in-trade had been playing covers of Rhythm & Blues songs. Under Barrett's influence, Pink Floyd began to experiment with a jazz-based psychedilic sound. He used "low tech" techniques like sliding a cigarette lighter up and down his guitar's fret board to give Pink Floyd a distinctive sound different from any other bands.
Rise and Fall:
As the band's success grew with its first two albums -- 1967's The Piper At the Gates of Dawn
(written primarily by Barrett) and 1968's A Saucerful of Secrets
-- so did Barrett's erratic behavior. He would wander aimlessly around the stage during live performances, or play just one chord throughout an entire concert. Heavy use of drugs, especially LSD, made his mental instability even worse.
Barrett left Pink Floyd in 1968, just three years after co-founding it. Over the next few years, he released two solo albums and performed on stage occasionally. In 1974 he left the music business altogether and lived the rest of his life in near seclusion in his boyhood home in Cambridge, spending his time painting, gardening and avoiding the public eye. He dropped the nickname he had adopted as a teenager, and returned to using the name he was given at birth, Roger.
Pink Floyd's 1975 album Wish You Were Here
was written and released as a tribute to Barrett. It was their first album to reach the top of both the UK and US album charts. A movie about his life, produced by Ridley Scott, was in the works at one time, but was shelved because of various legal issues. Barrett died in July 2006 at the age of 60 of complications caused by diabetes.
The Madcap Laughs
Barrett's first solo album after being fired from Pink Floyd was produced by Roger Waters and David Gilmour. It reflects, both lyrically and musically, Barrett's deep rooted mental anguish at that point in his life.