Sister says Crazy Diamond felt like a painter first and musician second – and wasn’t unhappy in his post-fame seclusion
Reclusive Pink Floyd legend Syd Barrett regarded himself as a painter first and a musician second, says his sister.
And the man credited with inspiring the band’s early successes wasn’t unhappy in his secluded life, even though he had to live with the ravages of mental illness exacerbated by his LSD habit in the 1960s and 1970s.
Barrett died of cancer in 2006 aged 60. He’d spent 38 years since leaving Floyd leading a quiet life in Cambridge.
On the eve of an exhibition showcasing many of the works he didn’t destroy, his sister Rosemary Breen says Barrett was never comfortable with fame.
“His art was the real him,” she tells Yahoo. “If he was ever asked what he did, the reaction would always be, ‘I’m an artist,’ never, ‘I’m a musician.’
“He was an artist who got sidetracked into playing music, which he’d always enjoyed as a hobby, then he came back to art.
“He never understood celebrity. He didn’t want it – it was a complete mystery to him why people wanted to see him. He thought he was the same as everybody else. He didn’t see anything special about himself.”
Barrett, the inspiration behind later Floyd track Shine On You Crazy Diamond, stopped painting when he left the band in 1968, but took it up again in the 1980s.
Breen says: “He wasn’t unhappy. He just wanted to be very quiet and live a contented life, which I think he did. He had such an eccentric head that contentment was all he could hope for.
“But Syd was kind and loveable. I would like people to come and see his paintings, and laugh and enjoy them, and see the fun he was.”
Syd Barrett: Art and Letters is open from March 18 until April 10 at the Idea Generation Gallery in East London.
It includes some love letters he wrote as a young man, including a note to a girl called Libby: “This morning I engraved your name on my leg, as I went crazy for you, a mad craving lust which did me no good as I tripped over a guy and fell flat on my face.”