Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Crazy Diamond Shines No More...

Syd Barrett one of the original, founding members of Pink Floyd has died at the age of 60. Although he left the band a few years after he helped form Pink Floyd he remained an influence on major rockers such as David Bowie who has said Barrett had a “major impact” on him. He was known as an innovative and experimental guitarist inventing the signature sound of Pink Floyd and stretching the boundaries of music at the time. He named the band after two names on the liner notes of a Jazz album by Blind Boy Fuller and the improvisation of Jazz was a major influence on his style and sound. The band set itself apart from acts of its day like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones because of their sound.

Though he wrote most of the hit record “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” in 1967, a generation of fans who came to know Pink Floyd through records like “Dark Side of the Moon,” and “The Wall,” never really knew his music. Ironically, the album “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” was recorded in a studio right next to where the Beatles were recording their seminal psychedelic album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” at the same time. Piper became a critical and commercial success in England, but not so much in the United States.

The album “Wish You Were Here” was written as a tribute to Syd Barrett by his band mates. Syd suffered from mental instability probably brought on by his use of LSD. Syd is said to have visited Abbey Road studio while Pink Floyd was recording “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” a song from their 1972 album, “Wish You Were Here.” Syd was said to have been overweight and had shaved off his hair and eyebrows. He also held a toothbrush in his hand and proceeded to brush his teeth by holding the brush still and jumping up and down. Most of the band members didn’t recognize him at first but when they did, they were brought to tears by his condition. That meeting influenced the scene in the movie, “The Wall,” where Bob Geldof shaves his hair in the mirror.

Barrett spend the last of his years in Cambridge, England living in his mother’s house. He was rarely seen except on a few occasions and he did not like to be reminded much of his past musical roots. There, he began to paint and garden frequently.

The members of Pink Floyd made sure that Syd received his royalties from his contribution to the band’s original albums. He led a reclusive life after leaving the band releasing only two solo albums and an album of unreleased material in 1988.

Some have said he suffered from schizophrenia but more like he had a condition known as Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Autism. The death of his father when he was eleven years old also may have contributed to his mental condition. Although these mental deficiencies were prevalent and contributed to his declining condition the psychedelic experiences, fame and drug use were most likely catalysts to his decline.

Many have shown interest in Syd Barrett’s life and work. Multiple artists including David Bowie, REM, Soundgarden and The Smashing Pumpkins have covered his songs. Johnny Depp has also shown an interest in a movie about Syd Barrett’s life.

Syd Barrett died on July 7, 2006 of a diabetes related illness.


The Phoenix said...

I heard about him having Asperger's. Looking at the way he conducted his life, it would make a lot of sense. Many artists have been known to suffer from Asperger's specifically, which for some reason might not be diagnosed until a person is in adulthood.

ObilonKenobi said...

Many artists do suffer from mental illness. It's a sad fact that some creative people have these types of illnesses. You may think it enhances creativity but it doesn't, it cuts short brilliant careers in those who don't take care of them or whose illness is so great it inhibits the process eventually.

I once heard Carl Reiner talking about that. He said he's heard from comedians that they don't go to therapy because it would make them feel better and they wouldn't be funny anymore. He told them that they weren't THAT funny. Meaning, take care of yourself and don't worry, your ability to create humor will probably get better.

Anonymous said...

I never knew he had a mental illness. Did they really make Crazy Diamond for him?