Pink Floyd founder Barrett put painting before pop

Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:53am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - He helped create one of rock's greatest bands, but the late Syd Barrett always considered himself a painter before a Pink Floyd founder. Speaking at an exhibition of the troubled musician's canvases and letters, his sister Rosemary Breen said Barrett could never understand why people put his brief success with Pink Floyd ahead of his lifelong passion for art.

"His art was the real him," Breen told Reuters in an interview, surrounded by dozens of works left behind by Barrett, who died of cancer in 2006 aged 60.

"He was firstly an artist and secondly a musician. If ever he was asked what he did, the reaction would always be 'I'm an artist', never 'I'm a musician.'"

Barrett, she added, did not understand why he was so famous, despite being an original Pink Floyd member and its creative force before the English group hit the big time.

The band was formed in 1965, but Barrett left three years later due to his erratic behavior brought on by drug abuse.

After his exit, Pink Floyd produced a series of seminal records including "The Dark Side of the Moon," "Wish You Were Here" and "The Wall," and sold more than 200 million albums.

Their composition "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" is believed to be a tribute to Barrett.

"He never ever understood celebrity," Breen said of her brother. "He never sought it and he didn't want it. It was just a complete mystery to him why people wanted to see him.   Continued...

<p>The late Syd Barrett in an undated photo. REUTERS/Courtesy of Pink Floyd Music Ltd Archive</p>