We remember Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett -- The troubled singer passed away on July 7

By Clark Collis
Updated July 14, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Founding Pink Floyd member Roger ”Syd” Barrett was one of rock’s most original and troubled talents. The singer — who died on July 7 at his home in Cambridge, England, of a diabetes-related illness — was the architect of Pink Floyd’s influential early sound. In crafting their 1967 hit singles ”Arnold Layne” and ”See Emily Play,” and penning almost all of their debut, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, he established the band as the U.K.’s leading psychedelic rockers. ”He was Pink Floyd,” says photographer Mick Rock, Barrett’s friend and onetime roommate.

But not for long. Barrett, who was taking large amounts of LSD, became increasingly unstable, to the point where he would sometimes strum the same chord during an entire concert. ”Up until the spring of ’67 he was charming, impish, and witty,” says Joe Boyd, who produced ”Arnold Layne.” ”When I saw him that June, he had gone through a dramatic deterioration and he was almost monosyllabic and very blank-faced.”

In early 1968, Pink Floyd parted ways with their frontman. Two years later, he released a couple of much-loved solo albums — The Madcap Laughs and Barrett — but by the end of 1970, Barrett had retreated to the basement of his mother’s house in Cambridge. For the next three and a half decades he mostly remained out of public view, never releasing new material again.

Even so, Barrett’s small discography is revered by peers such as David Bowie (who covered ”See Emily Play” on Pin Ups) and younger fans like the Flaming Lips and Robyn Hitchcock. ”His albums are luminously beautiful,” says Hitchcock. ”I will be playing them to my grave.”

(Additional reporting by Michael Endelman)


His Essential Discography

THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN (1967)
Pink Floyd’s Barrett-masterminded debut is a psych-rock classic, from the whimsy of ”Bike” to the endless riffing of ”Interstellar Overdrive.”

THE MADCAP LAUGHS (1970)
Barrett’s solo debut remains one of the great cult albums, with its acoustic pop brilliance firmly outweighing occasional bouts of bizarro-ness.

BARRETT (1970)
His second album has fantastic moments, most notably ”Baby Lemonade.” On several tracks he really sounds, for better or worse, like a man who has gone quite mad.

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