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r.i.p. roger “syd” barrett

Syd Barrett 1946-2006Sad news from the UK, as Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett died this past weekend, likely due to complications from diabetes. He was 60 years old.

Syd was one of the co-founders of Pink Floyd, along with Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Nick Mason and Rado “Bob” Klose. One of his school chums, David Gilmour, eventually replaced him in Pink Floyd when Syd’s mental health declined, due in large part to excessive use of psychedelic drugs. He twice attempted to launch a solo carrer – once immediately after his dismissal from the Floyd, again in 1974. However, his influence on rock music is quite large – not only with Pink Floyd, but with artists like David Bowie, the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed, Pete Townshend, and many others.

Over the years, I’ve listened to a lot of Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett music. His work was haunting and fresh, devolving from fantasy fun (“The Gnome,” “Lucifer Sam”) to downright disturbing (“Rats,” “Dark Globe”) as his mental stability crumbled. His was one of the more publically-documented “acid casualties,” along with Brian Wilson, yet Syd’s story has always been more sad to me: an artist who so alienated his colleagues and friends that he truly imploded.

Some of Syd’s plight was illustrated in Pink Floyd’s The Wall, where Pink becomes catatonic and insane due to life’s pressures. But Syd’s former colleagues tipped their hats to him many times over the years. With that, I leave you with Roger Waters’ ode to Barrett from 1975’s Wish You Were Here album, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now theres a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
Blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger, you legend,
You martyr, and shine!

You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
Rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter, you piper,
You prisoner, and shine!

Nobody knows where you are, how near or how far.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Pile on many more layers and I’ll be joining you there.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
And well bask in the shadow of yesterday’s triumph, and sail
On the steel breeze.
Come on you boy child, you winner and loser, come on you miner
For truth and delusion, and shine!

Rest in peace, Syd.

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