Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Syd Barrett dies aged 60

SYD Barrett, the founder of Pink Floyd has died aged 60.

The wayward genius passed away from cancer last Friday in the scruffy semi-detached Cambridge home to which he retreated as a recluse more than 30 years ago.

A spokeswoman for Pink Floyd music publishers said: "I can confirm that Syd Barrett has died.

He died peacefully and there will be a private family funeral.

"We would ask that the family be left alone and be given space at this time."

The singer's funeral will be for family and no members of Pink Floyd are expected to attend.

Syd, who created, named and powered the pied pipers of the psychedelic rock movement, shunned fans and rarely ventured outside his front door following a psychedelic drug induced breakdown at the peak of his career. He was later immortalised in Pink Floyd's song Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

On his death certificate, his occupation was given as "retired musician".

Born Roger Keith Barrett on January 6, 1946, in Cambridge, he was given the nickname Syd aged 15.

During the 1960s, when Syd came of age, Cambridge played a very special part in the spiritual birth of modern pop music across Britain and American.

The local music scene was thriving with bands such as Geof Mott and the Mottoes, the Sundowners, the Swinging Vibros and the Redcaps all vying for popularity.

The Victoria Ballroom - where Marks & Spencer now stands on the Market Square - was one of the most popular hangouts. Musicians including Toni Santi, Clive Welham, Willie Wilson and Nick Barraclough
* now a BBC Radio 2 presenter - were the names on everyone's lips.

But the two Cambridge men who were to have the most lasting effect on British music were Syd, guitarist with Geof Mott and Mottoes, and Dave Gilmour, singer and guitarist with the band Jokers Wild.

Syd formed Pink Floyd in 1965.

His controversial departure was in '68 after he had penned the hit singles Arnold Layneand See Emily Play along with the songs on the first album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.

While the band went on to achieve worldwide fame, he lived in the basement of his mother's semi in Cambridge, where he boarded up the windows to keep out of the eyes of the press and fans. He recorded two solo albums.

Syd's withdrawal from public life led him to enjoy cult status among some Pink Floyd fans, with many websites and books dedicated to him. He was often described as the first acid casualty.

Clive Welham said: "I only knew Syd before his breakdown. He was a wonderful man - a nice guy with a lovely sense of humour. He was very likeable and had no malice in him.

"He was a very talented painter as well as a musician. How on earth he got mixed up with such awful drugs, I don't know, but he liked to try things and clearly went too far.

"I have often seen him around Cambridge but never talk to him - he was always in a world of his own.

It would have felt wrong and I think it would've been a disastrous things to do - I doubt he would've known who I was."

Last year, in the run-up to Pink Floyd's reunion for Live 8 - in which Syd did not take part - neighbours said the former rock star never answered his door to callers and remained a recluse. They said he found it hard to make eye contact.

At this point, his sister Rosemary Breen, who lived a few miles from Syd in Cambridge, told the News he had not spoken to his former band mates - Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright, or his replacement, Dave Gilmour - for nearly three decades.

She said: "That is another life for him, another world in another time.

He is not Syd anymore, he is Roger.

There is no contact (with the band members) and he does not want them to get in touch with him."

She added: "He does DIY, he listens to music and he goes out."

Mrs Breen helped care for Syd in the years following his breakdown.

She has declined to comment on his death.

Syd's brother Alan Barrett said from his home in Linton, near Cambridge: "Roger died on Friday.

There will be a small family funeral soon. We just wish to be left alone."

Syd's father died when he was still in his teens. It is believed this is one of the factors that led to his downfall.

The late Bernard Stubbings, who ran the city's main music shop with the legendary Cambridge jazz band leader Ken Stevens, remembered Syd in the early days as he played alongside him in Geof Mott and the Mottoes.

Bernard died in 2003. Before his death he recalled Syd: "Syd was a lovely bloke, pure and simple. We all loved him."

It is understood that Syd financed his modest lifestyle through royalties from his Pink Floyd and solo records.

Group's roots were laid in city's pubs and clubs

THE story of Pink Floyd is well- documented, but their roots lay firmly in the pubs, cafes and nightspots of Cambridge in the 1960s - a highpoint which the local music scene has never managed to live up to again.

Syd and Dave Gilmour dominated the Cambridge scene in the early 1960s.

Syd left Cambridge on receiving a scholarship to Camberwell Arts School in London in 1963 and joined a band with his old friend from Cambridge, Roger Waters.

Fellow Cantabrigian emigres Rick Wright and Nick Mason also joined the band and, after a succession of names including Sigma 6, The T Set, the Meggadeaths and The Screaming Abdabs, Syd eventually suggested taking the names of two Georgia bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, and combining the names to create Pink Floyd.

Syd wrote the hit singles Arnold Layneand See Emily Playalong with the songs on the first album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.

Two years later, his brain frazzled by drugs, he left the group, his legacy already assured.

Pink Floyd went on to achieve worldwide recognition with epic albums such as Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall.

In the 1980s relationships among band members soured and Roger Waters left the band.

He started a legal battle with the remaining members for the rights to the name Pink Floyd, but he failed in his attempt and went on to record solo work instead.

The feud, one of the greatest in rock history, ended for the Live 8 concert in July 2005.

12 July 2006
First appeared in the Cambridge Evening News

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