Roger “Syd” Barrett died ten years ago today of pancreatic cancer on July 7, 2006 at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, England, but his legacy lives on in the acknowledgement of his increasing influence over scores of musicians.
Syd was born on January 6, 1946 in Cambridge. His parents were Max (Dr A M Barrett) and Win. Roger was the fourth of five children. The young Roger was actively encouraged in his music and art by his parents and he was to be successful in poetry contests while at high school.
Syd knew Roger Waters from primary school and met David Gilmour as a teenager, so their paths were to cross many times. These three later became the main creative leaders of Pink Floyd, each of them rising to the front during their own era, connected in origin and friendship from the Cambridge days. After a stint at Cambridge School of Art, Syd moved to London to attend Camberwell Art College, and eventually hooked up with Roger Waters, who was attending Regent Street Polytechnic. David Gilmour was asked to join the band at the end of 1967.
By early 1967, he was regularly using LSD, and Pink Floyd’s drummer Nick Mason described him as “completely distanced from everything going on“.
Working with Barrett eventually proved too difficult, and matters came to a head in January 1968 while en route to a performance in Southampton when a band member asked if they should collect Barrett. According to Gilmour, the answer was “Nah, let’s not bother“, signalling the end of Barrett’s tenure with Pink Floyd. Waters later admitted, “He was our friend, but most of the time we now wanted to strangle him“. In early March 1968, Pink Floyd met with business partners Jenner and King to discuss the band’s future; Barrett agreed to leave. The burden of lyrical composition and creative direction fell mostly on Waters.