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One of the co-founders of the band Pink Floyd has passed away. Syd Barrett died several days ago, according to the band's spokesperson. He was 60 years old. No cause of death was given, though Barrett reportedly suffered from diabetes. Barrett was with Pink Floyd for less than three years, but he's credited with being a catalyst for psychedelic rock. For the last 30 years, he lived as a recluse in his hometown of Cambridge, England. NPR's Felix Contreras reports.


The year was 1967. The Beatles were recording Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and the members of Pink Floyd were down the hall in another Abbey Road studio putting together their first record.

(Soundbite of music)

PINK FLOYD (Rock Band): (Singing) (Unintelligible) had a strange hobby collecting clothes, moonshine washing (unintelligible).

CONTRERAS: Most of the songs on Piper at the Gates of Dawn were composed by Syd Barrett, who's also credited with naming the band after two American blues musicians. But Barrett is also credited with helping take British rock beyond its early blues influences, and Pink Floyd was one of the first groups to take rock from clubs to concert halls, as Barrett told BBC TV in an early interview.

Mr. SYD BARRETT (Founding Member, Pink Floyd): We play in large halls, and I think concerts have given us a chance to realize that maybe the music we play isn't directed at dancing, necessarily, like normal pop groups.

(Soundbite of music)

PINK FLOYD: (Singing) (Unintelligible) Floating the sound, the sound's around the icy waters underground.

CONTRERAS: Pink Floyd was one of the first groups to use elaborate light shows and film projections during its performances.

Mr. TIM PAGE (Music Critic, The Washington Post): It was really heading off in very new musical directions.

CONTRERAS: Tim page is a music critic for The Washington Post.

Mr. PAGE: Syd Barrett was definitely a pioneer in psychedelic rock - odd song structures, all sorts of unusual harmonies, electronic music - which was quite unlike anything else anyone was doing.

CONTRERAS: But psychedelia was not good for Syd Barrett. His apparently fragile mental state was exacerbated by LSD. He had a breakdown and left Pink Floyd after contributing just four songs to the group's second album. But in 1970, Barrett released two solo albums, and on the critically acclaimed The Madcap Laughs, he seemed to acknowledge his own tenuous grasp on reality.

(Soundbite of song, "Dark Globe")

Mr. BARRETT: (Singing) My head kissed the ground. I was half the way down, treading the sand. Please, please lift a hand. I'm only a person whose arm bands beats on his hands, hang tall. Won't you miss me?

CONTRERAS: Syd Barrett was one of the early tragic figures in rock. In 1975, his former band-mates recorded Shine On, You Crazy Diamond as a tribute to Barrett.

(Soundbite of song, "Shine On, You Crazy Diamond")

PINK FLOYD: (Singing) Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.

CONTRERAS: Syd Barrett became something of a legend, inspiring such later bands as R.E.M., Blur, and Pulp. David Bowie told the BBC that Barrett was quote, a major inspiration. His impact on my thinking was enormous. A diamond indeed, he said. Felix Contreras, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "Shine On, You Crazy Diamond")

PINK FLOYD: (Singing) Now there's a look in you eyes like black holes in the sky.

BLOCK: This is NPR. National Public Radio.

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