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Pink Floyd legend Syd Barrett dies

Musician a major influence on British psychedelia

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Pink Floyd

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Syd Barrett, the eccentric guitarist who founded Pink Floyd but later left the music business to live quietly and somewhat reclusively, has died at the age of 60, according to a spokeswoman for the band.

A spokeswoman for Pink Floyd told the Press Association: "He died very peacefully a couple of days ago. There will be a private family funeral."

"Syd was the guiding light of the early band lineup and leaves a legacy which continues to inspire," the surviving members of Pink Floyd -- Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright -- said in a statement.

They were "very upset and sad to learn of Syd Barrett's death."

The singer and guitarist, born Roger Keith Barrett on January 6, 1946, founded the band in 1965 with Waters, Mason and Wright. (Its name was derived from two American bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.)

He wrote many of the early hits for the avant-garde rock band, including the 1967 album "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" and the band's first hit singles, "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play."

His songs were odd and charming combinations of childlike lyrics and swirling melodies, often augmented with strange arrangements. The titles alluded to space, the occult and sometimes nonsense: "Astronomy Domine," "Lucifer Sam," "Chapter 24."

Consider some lyrics of "Bike," from "Piper": "I know a mouse, and he hasn't got a house / I don't know why, I call him Gerald / He's getting rather old, but he's a good mouse."

Pink Floyd, taken under the wing of Beatles engineer Norman Smith, had early success, but Barrett, suffering from mental problems and heavy drug use, started demonstrating erratic behavior, including catatonia during concerts. He left the band in 1968. He was replaced by David Gilmour, who had joined the band as its fifth member earlier that year.

Barrett put out two noted solo albums, "The Madcap Laughs" and "Barrett," both in 1970.

In 1975, during the recording of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" album, Barrett showed up unannounced at the studio -- ironically, during the recording of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," a song about him. He had become overweight and shaved his eyebrows; the other members didn't recognize him at first.

"Wish You Were Here" was dedicated to Barrett.

Much of British psychedelic music was influenced by Barrett, and a number of musicians have credited him, according to Allmusic.com.

In a statement, David Bowie said that Barrett had been a "major inspiration."

"His impact on my thinking was enormous," Bowie wrote on his Web site. "A major regret is that I never got to know him. A diamond indeed."

Barrett had since lived in anonymity in the eastern English city of Cambridge. According to The Associated Press, he suffered from diabetes.

The spokeswoman said a low-key, private funeral would be held. She did not disclose the cause of death.

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