The Day Pink Floyd Co-Founder Syd Barrett Died
Syd Barrett's fame had evaporated by the time the Pink Floyd co-founder died, and he wouldn't have had it any other way.
Barrett succumbed to pancreatic cancer on July 7, 2006, at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, having spent the bulk of his adult life far from the spotlight. He appeared on only two Pink Floyd albums, 1967's Piper at the Gates of Dawn and 1968's Saucerful of Secrets, and never released another record after 1970. Instead, he led a quiet, fairly normal existence that concentrated on daily routine and artwork.
Speculation about his mental health had long been fodder for fans and detractors, not to mention a subject explored on Pink Floyd's 1975 album Wish You Were Here, but Barrett's physical decline had been largely unknown. Fans also learned, upon Barrett's passing, that he had suffered from diabetes for several years.
"The band are naturally very upset and sad to learn of Syd Barrett’s death," the surviving members of Pink Floyd said in a statement. "Syd was the guiding light of the early band lineup and leaves a legacy which continues to inspire."
A star-packed tribute concert followed in 2007 at London’s Barbican Theatre. David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason performed the early Pink Floyd classic "Arnold Layne," and fellow Floyd alum Roger Waters also appeared. "Syd was a lovely guy and a unique talent," Waters said, via his website. "He leaves behind a body of work that is both very touching and very deep and which will shine on forever."
The bill elsewhere included Kevin Ayers, Damon Albarn of Blur, the Damned's Captain Sensible, Mike Heron of Incredible String Band, Robyn Hitchcock, Chrissie Hynde, and John Paul Jones, among others. David Bowie also took to his website to acknowledge Barrett's impact. "I can't tell you how sad I feel," he wrote. "Syd was a major inspiration for me. His impact on my thinking was enormous. A major regret is that I never got to know him."
Barrett's sister Rosemary called him "my lovably ordinary brother," in an interview with the Sunday Times. She said that he "simply couldn’t understand” the continued interest in his Pink Floyd years, saying he was "too absorbed in his own thoughts to spare time for his fans." According to the article, in addition to his paintings, Barrett had also begun a new project. "He read very deeply about the history of art and actually wrote a book about it," Rosemary said. The book, however, remains unfinished and unpublished. "He found his own mind so absorbing that he didn't want to be distracted," she added.
The 10th anniversary of Barrett's passing sparked another round of tributes. A special memorial for Barrett was scheduled in Cambridge, England. The Cambridge Film Festival premiered a new documentary, Get All That Ant?, which featured stills and archive footage from the '60s, and images from London, San Francisco and Barrett's hometown of Cambridge.
A walking tour titled I Spy Syd in Cambridge also included stops at Barrett’s former family home, his school and the old homes of Gilmour and Waters. Those events coincided with the unveiling of a permanent memorial to Barrett in Cambridge and a tribute concert titled "Syd Barrett – A Celebration."
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