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Roger Barrett


1965-1968 Pink Floyd - guitar, vocals  
1969-1970 Syd Barrett - guitar, vocals  

Personal information

Also known as: Syd
Born on: 06.01.1946
Died on: 07.07.2006

Syd Barrett (6 January 1946 - 7 July 2006), born Roger Keith Barrett, was an English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and painter, best remembered as a founding member of the band Pink Floyd. He was the lead vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter during the band's psychedelic years, providing major musical and stylistic direction in their early work, including their name, although he was left out of the group in 1968 amidst speculations of mental illness exacerbated by heavy drug use.

Besides being a pioneer in psychedelic rock with his expressive guitar playing and imaginative compositions, Barrett was also a pioneer in the space rock and psychedelic folk genres. He was active in music for only about seven years, recording four singles, two albums, and several unreleased songs with Pink Floyd; and a single and two albums, plus a third one of unreleased tracks/alternate takes, as a solo musician, before going into self-imposed seclusion lasting more than thirty years.

In his post-musician life, he continued with his painting and dedicated himself to gardening, never to return to the public eye. He died in 2006. A number of biographies have been written about him since the 1980s, and Pink Floyd wrote and recorded several tributes to him after he left, most notably the 1975 album Wish You Were Here.

Early years

Barrett was born as Roger Keith Barrett in the English city of Cambridge to a middle-class family. His father, Arthur Max Barrett, was a prominent pathologist, and both he and his wife, Winifred, encouraged the young Roger (as he was known then) in his music. When Barrett was three years old, his family moved to 183 Hills Road. After his brothers and sisters left home, his mother rented out rooms to lodgers, including a future Prime Minister of Japan. One common tale of how Barrett acquired the nickname "Syd" at the age of 14, is of a reference to an old local Cambridge jazz double bassist, Sid 'the beat' Barrett, which claims Syd Barrett changed the spelling in order to differentiate himself from his namesake. However, when he was 13, his schoolmates nicknamed him "Syd" after he showed up to a field day at Abington Scout site wearing a flat cap instead of his Scout beret; making reference to "Syd" being a "working-class" name. He used both names interchangeably for several years and his sister Rosemary stated, "He was never Syd at home. He would never have allowed it". He attended Cambridgeshire High School for Boys and Cambridge College of Arts and Technology.

His father died of cancer on 11 December 1961, less than a month before Barrett's 16th birthday. Eager to help her son recover from his grief, Barrett's mother encouraged the band he played in, Geoff Mott and the Mottoes, to perform in their front room. Roger Waters and Barrett were childhood friends, and Waters often visited such gigs. Barrett enrolled in Camberwell Art School in South London in 1964 to study painting.

Pink Floyd Years (1965-68)

Starting in 1964, the band that would become Pink Floyd underwent various line-up and name changes such as "The Abdabs", "The Screaming Abdabs", "Sigma 6", and "The Meggadeaths". In 1965, Barrett joined them as The Tea Set, and when they found themselves playing a concert with a band of the same name, Barrett came up with the name "The Pink Floyd Sound" (later "The Pink Floyd"). He devised the name "Pink Floyd" by juxtaposing the first names of Pink Anderson and Floyd Council whom he had read about in a sleeve note by Paul Oliver for a 1962 Blind Boy Fuller LP (Philips BBL-7512): "Curley Weaver and Fred McMullen, (...) Pink Anderson or Floyd Council—these were a few amongst the many blues singers that were to be heard in the rolling hills of the Piedmont, or meandering with the streams through the wooded valleys". Barrett also told the story that the name was transmitted to him by a flying saucer while he was sitting on Glastonbury Tor.

Death And Aftermath

After suffering from diabetes for several years, Barrett died at his home in Cambridge on 7 July 2006. He was 60 years old. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. The occupation on his death certificate was given as "retired musician." He was cremated, with his ashes given to a family member or friend.

In 2006, his home in St. Margaret's Square was put on the market and reportedly attracted considerable interest. After over 100 showings, many by fans, it was sold to a French couple who bought it simply because they liked it; reportedly they knew nothing about Barrett. His other possessions were sold at an auction at Cheffins, with £120,000 being raised for charity. NME produced a tribute issue to Barrett the week after with a photo of him on the cover. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Barrett's sister revealed that he had written a book: "He read very deeply about the history of art and actually wrote an unpublished book about it, which I'm too sad to read at the moment. But he found his own mind so absorbing that he didn't want to be distracted."

According to local newspapers, Barrett left approximately £1.7 million to his two brothers and two sisters. This sum was apparently largely acquired from royalties from Pink Floyd compilations and live recordings featuring songs he had written while with the band.

A tribute concert was held at the Barbican Centre, London on 10 May 2007 with Robyn Hitchcock, Captain Sensible, Damon Albarn, Chrissie Hynde, Kevin Ayers and his Pink Floyd bandmates performing (albeit not on stage at the same time)