by Frank Tortorici

[from ]

Though some of today's Pink Floyd fans may not know
him, the slyly humorous Syd Barrett started the band
and was the chief architect behind its critically
acclaimed first album.

Roger Keith Barrett was born Jan. 6, 1946, in
Cambridge, England.  He was nicknamed "Syd" as a child,
when his friends included future Pink Floyd members
Roger Waters and David Gilmour.

Barrett's father died while his son was in his late
teens, after which Barrett attended art school and
began painting and making music.  He played guitar and
sang in bands such as the Abdabs, the T-Sets and Sigma 6.

In 1965 in London, Barrett was playing in an R&B-based
rock group with Waters (bass), Nick Mason (drums),
Richard Wright (keyboards) and Bob Close (guitar).
After Close's departure, Barrett named the band the
Pink Floyd Sound, after a blues record by Pink Anderson
and Floyd Council.

Within a few years, the group shortened its name to
Pink Floyd and began experimenting with psychedelic
music, with long compositions mixing hard rock, blues,
country, folk, classical and electronic sounds.  Pink
Floyd's gigs at London's UFO Club also featured one of
the first slide-and-light shows in rock.

Barrett was the principal writer and singer of Pink
Floyd's material during this period.  He crafted two
songs that were short and snappy enough to become 1967
UK hits: "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play" (RealAudio

Barrett then composed almost all of The Piper at the
Gates of Dawn, one of the first British
psychedelic-rock LPs.  It featured lengthy numbers,
including "Astronomy Domine" and "Interstellar Overdrive,"
and quirky tunes such as "The Gnome."

Around the time of Floyd's first success, Barrett began
experimenting with psychedelic drugs.  Eventually, the
chemicals' effects began to hamper his productivity. 
Old friend Gilmour was added to the band to compensate
on guitar.

On A Saucerful of Secrets (1967), Barrett played on
only "Jugband Blues." He wrote two other tracks, while
Waters penned the rest of the LP.  Barrett then
committed himself to a hospital and later remained in

In 1970 Barrett released the solo works
The Madcap Laughs, featuring "Terrapin," and Barrett,
featuring "Baby Lemonade." Some backing tracks by Floyd
members were added to both LPs.  Acoustic BBC radio
sessions that Barrett recorded were also released
as a live LP, The Peel Sessions, featuring Gilmour.

Opel, a collection of Barrett outtakes, was issued in
1989.  The LP featured backing by the band Soft
Machine.  In 1993 his work was summarized on Octopus:
The Best of Syd Barrett and the box set Crazy Diamond.

He briefly flirted with a new band called Star before
retiring from music.

Pink Floyd, sans Barrett, hit it big in 1973 with Dark
Side of the Moon, one of the best-selling albums in
history.  Two years later, the band released Wish You
Were Here, which included such songs as "Shine on You
Crazy Diamond."

Diagnosed as schizophrenic, Barrett lives in Cambridge
and London, mostly under the care of relatives.  He
keeps a low profile and is able to live comfortably on
his yearly earnings.