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Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett was both the founding member of one of the most legendary rock bands and probably the most famous rock star to develop psychosis. He formed the band that would become Pink Floyd in 1965, amalgamating the first names of two American bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, inspired by LSD (1), and driven by Barrett’s songwriting, singing, and otherworldly guitar solos, the first album, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” (1967), alchemized the whimsical bohemian spirit of the “summer of love” and influenced generations of musicians with its sonic inventions and surreal lyrics. Music journalists have called him “the golden boy of the mind-melting late-60s psychedelic era, its brightest star and ultimately its most tragic victim” (2). In fact after two haunting solo albums, “The Madcap Laughs” and “Barrett,” which showed the last flickering lights of his genius, his eccentric and creative personality drifted into a psychotic reclusive state, forcing him to withdraw from public view in 1974 (3–5). However, Pink Floyd would pay tribute to Barrett and would include madness as an ongoing theme on their best and most successful albums, “Dark Side of the Moon” (1973) and “The Wall” (1979), speaking to Syd directly in the songs “Wish You Were Here” and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” Barrett spent the rest of his life in his mother’s house in Cambridge, painting and gardening.
There are no other rock bands as intimate as Pink Floyd with the impact of psychosis on music and art. We hope to see the many musicians who have benefited from his talent promote artistic events supporting psychosis research and to allow the many other “crazy diamonds” in the rough to shine as Syd Barrett did, while at the same time reducing the stigma of mental illness.
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