The crazy diamond began to shine back on this day in 1946 – Syd Barrett (Roger to his parents) was born. Few artists have built up such a reputation and influenced so many in so short a time.
As a child, Barrett was obsessed with art of all kinds, and a friend of Roger Waters. After enrolling at an art school, seeing the Beatles and Rolling Stones and meeting David Gilmour in 1963-64, he began writing songs . However, it was old friend Waters with whom he’d really get things going, they soon had a band called the Abdabs, which a few names later became The Pink Floyd Sound. Barrett was big into experimenting with musical techniques like distortion and feedback, and with psychedelic drugs. The band soon became the darlings of the London underground scene during the Summer of Love and after two reasonably successful singles which Barrett had written (“Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”) the band had a contract with EMI and were recording at Abbey Road next door to the Beatles. Barrett was a huge factor in the debut, Piper at the Gates of Dawn but his weird and unpredictable behavior got him kicked out of the band, replaced by Gilmour ironically, soon after. Not a step they took easily apparently; all of them were fond of Barrett and their 1975 album Wish You Were Here was dedicated to him, with the lengthy two-part song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” about him.
He died in 2006 from cancer after withdrawing from society, by and large, to paint and live with his Mom. Gilmour remembered him fondly as a “genius who made us smile with his wonderfully eccentric songs about bikes, gnomes and scarecrows…he touched more people than he could possibly imagine.”