Syd Barrett, a founding member of the band “Pink Floyd” and one of the most legendary rock stars to develop a mental illness – most likely schizophrenia (triggered, it is said, by significant drug use as well as the stress and pressure of his career), died in 2006 from complications related to diabetes. He had been living in a cottage in Cambridge, England, where he had lived a quiet life for the past three decades. He was 60 years old.
While there has been some confusion in the public’s mind about the mental illness Syd Barret suffered from, most of his band members and close associates have identified his mental illness as schizophrenia, and the mental health professionals that we’ve talked to also believe that he suffered from schizophrenia.
Comments by bandmate Roger Waters and others suggest that Syd always had “odd thoughts” – a factor that has been linked to a biological predisposition for schizophrenia. He also suffered from a highly stressful childhood (his father died suddenly when Syd was a child), and by his early-twenties he was in a high stress career and he was using a wide array of street drugs – especially cannabis and LSD. Syd was also highly creative – and psychological studies indicate that highly creative people share an elevated risk of serious mental illness.
Shine on Crazy Diamond was conceived and written as a tribute and remembrance to their former band member Syd Barrett.
“The band was in the studio, and Roger was sitting at the desk, and I came in and I saw this guy sitting behind him–huge, bald, fat guy. I thought, “He looks a bit…strange…” Anyway, so I sat down with Roger at the desk and we worked for about ten minutes, and this guy kept on getting up and brushing his teeth and then sitting–doing really weird things, but keeping quiet. And I said to Roger, “Who is he?” and Roger said “I don’t know.” and I said “Well, I assumed he was a friend of yours,” and he said “No, I don’t know who he is.” Anyway, it took me a long time, and then suddenly I realised it was Syd, after maybe 45 minutes. He came in as we were doing the vocals for Shine On You Crazy Diamond, which was basically about Syd. He just, for some incredible reason picked the very day that we were doing a song which was about him. And we hadn’t seen him, I don’t think, for two years before. That’s what’s so incredibly…weird about this guy. And a bit disturbing, as well, I mean, particularly when you see a guy, that you don’t, you couldn’t recognise him. And then, for him to pick the very day we want to start putting vocals on, which is a song about him. Very strange.” — Richard Wright (Pink Floyd keyboard player, composer)