Syd_guitar The human mind has to be one of the most powerful, and yet most fragile things known to man.  People have been known to stand up to incredible stress and duress, and come out on the other side empowered and strong.  Others have cracked under seemingly very little stress.  And each of us handles it in our own unique way.

There have been many cases in history of famous people who were insane.  So many of them were great artists, dreamers, poets.  Perhaps there is something different about the way their minds work.  Maybe that’s why they were able to leave us with such amazing legacies, while they quietly succumbed to the darkness inside them.

This month’s Rolling Stone Magazine features a cover story on the band Pink Floyd.  Most people today don’t know the tragic story behind this iconic band.  They just know they wrote odd lyrics, and had a killer light show.  And probably everyone has heard of their blockbuster album, "The Wall". 

But few people are aware of how they got their start, of who the band members are, and the pain they walked through on their way to the stars.  Syd Barrett should be a household name.  But it isn’t.  Syd died in quiet solitude last summer, his life almost like the passing of a forgotten dream.  The Piper finally reached the Gates of Dawn. Yet is was Syd who created Pink Floyd.  It was Syd who named the band.  It was Syd who was the driving force behind their avante garde psychadelic style of rock-n-roll back that rocketed them to the top in the 1960’s London Underground. 

It was Syd who wrote and sang the songs, who came up with the idea of their incredible light show, who played lead guitar in a way that nobody before had ever dared.  It was Syd that went insane.

Nobody knows what really happened. Syd was described as charismatic, outgoing.  He was friendly and always the life of the party.  He took the Pink Floyd to the very pinnacle of rock-n-roll stardom, then disappeared.

He not only physically dropped from sight, he mentally went away.  He was, without question, a genius. He was rich, famous, and beautiful. But apparently his mind couldn’t reconcile with his reality.  Perhaps he used the LSD to escape from the blinding glory of who he’d become, of what he’d created.  Perhaps the LSD opened up the escape hatch in his mind, and once he’d stepped through, he didn’t want to come back.  But was that all?  Roger Waters thought the LSD triggered some sort of dormant schizophrenia.  Maybe so. 

I think what haunts me most are the unanswered questions.  Was he really crazy, or did he just decide that the world inside his own mind was more interesting than ours?  Did he know who he was?  Did he choose his path, or did it choose him?  What sort of intuition drove him to appear at the recording studio in 1975 when the band was recording the song "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", written by Roger Waters for Syd?  Did he know it was about him?  Did he know why they were crying?  Did he care?

I have to wonder what it would have been like if Syd Barrett had not gone mad.  Would he still be with us today?  Would the direction of Pink Floyd have changed completely?  And are any of us all that different from Syd?  He was unrealized potential.  An unfulfilled fantasy.  Can we not all say that, at least to some degree, we too have not realized our potential to its fullest?  Have not dared to live our dreams?  Just a thought. . .

So often, out of great tragedy emerges great art.  I think that is the case with Pink Floyd.  The Rolling Stone Magazine article even goes so far as to use the term "hubris" in describing them.  I think this is accurate on many levels.  The band itself has always been both mystery and paradigm.  But they would have been neither, had Syd Barrett not birthed them.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond
by: Roger Waters

Remember when you were young,
You shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.

Now there’s a look in your eyes,
Like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.

You were caught in the crossfire
Of childhood and stardom,
Blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!

You reached for the secret too soon,
You tried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.

Threatened by shadows at night,
And exposed in the light
Shine on you crazy diamond.

Well you wore out your welcome
With random precision,
Rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

Remember when you were young
You shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.

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