How a diamond shines – The story of Syd Barrett


Chris Folan, Journalist

Beauty and tragedy are two words that are not often grouped together. However, with the case of Syd Barret, there are no better words to describe the genius of this man. After founding one of the world’s most famous bands, Pink Floyd, Syd’s decent into hysteria was quick and forgotten by many.

Born Roger Keith Barrett, Syd was born on June 6th, 1946. He was a very unique child whose taste for art was apparent. He grew up in Cambridge, England and was a revered student at his elementary school. He won many awards for poetry, art, and music especially. With a natural knack for taking in the beauty of his surroundings, nobody had a doubt that he would grow up to be something amazing. His skills in the arts were unparalleled, and his guitar skills made a perfect combo for a musical prodigy. 

In his later years, Syd attended art school in London to pursue painting as his main focus, but was very fond of music at the time. Similarly, Roger Waters, an old friend of Syd’s, was attending the same school pursuing music. Roger and Syd were very close friends going up, and Roger decided to put that friendship to the test. Lacking a lead singer, Roger had invited Syd to join his band alongside Richard “Rick” Wright and David Mason. The four went from name to name, but ultimately landed on their final name: Pink Floyd. 

Shortly after forming the band, Syd took creative control over the band and began recording their first studio-produced album. During the recording sessions, the band began experimenting with many drugs, but nothing came close to the psychedelic bliss of LSD. This experimentation quickly took hold over Syd, and became his outlet for many of his creative ideas. The psychedelic experiences that Syd had while on LSD were very apparent in the band’s debut album, 1967’s  “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”.

With the artistic genius of Syd’s writing and the exciting psychedelic sounds of their music, Pink Floyd quickly became a household name. However, with the bands growing success, came the declining state of Syd’s mental health. After using LSD extensively, the band quickly noticed the effects of the drug on Syd’s creativity and his personality. He became a husk of what he once was, a lifeless, soulless shell. Unbeknownst to Syd, he showed severe signs of schizophrenia, and the illness was taking a toll on the bands creative direction. 

Syd’s last few years with the band were tragic and depressing, putting on concerts to only play one chord the whole time, screaming into the microphone at people who weren’t present, and ultimately descending into hysteria. The band had no choice but to remove Syd from the group, and putting the final nail in the coffin of Syd’s well being. Many assume that Pink Floyd would have become nothing without the departure of Syd Barrett, but many, like Mr. Cordoner, think otherwise. “The departure of Barrett was definitely heartbreaking to the band, but would it have stopped them from becoming the giant that they were? No. The band would have easily transitioned into another genre such as glam rock. However, they would not have become the musical super-group that they had become with the release of Dark Side of The Moon.” 

The tragedy of Syd Barrett lives on in the minds of many Pink Floyd fans. The artistic genius that seemed to weave through his mind was unstoppable. Considered by many to be one of the most progressive musical geniuses of all time, Syd Barrett continues to live on through his two solo albums and of course “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”. The psychedelic experience of LSD proved to be too much for Syd to handle and is eventually what brought the wrecking ball upon his well-being. Syd Barrett is unarguably the most influential member of Pink Floyd despite being present for only their first two albums. The beauty of his lyrics are quite apparent, and the man behind the art had nowhere to go but up. However, with all the beauty, comes tragedy.