Pink Floyd evolved into one of the most adventurous and introspective bands of all time, but the
band's history is shrouded in both mystery and tragedy.
This is the tragic real-life story of Pink Floyd.
Syd Barrett was the original creative mind behind Pink Floyd, singing, playing guitar,
and writing most of the songs on the band's 1967 debut album The Piper at the Gates of
His life was also marked by tragedy very early on.
Barrett's father died when he was just a boy, leaving his mother to raise five children
on her own.
Barrett poured himself into visual art and playing the classical piano, but by his teen
years, he was all about rock music and the strange new places he could take it.
In 1968, the band hired singer and guitarist David Gilmour to supplement Barrett, whose
onstage behavior had grown increasingly unpredictable.
His mental health began to decline, thanks in part to prolific use of LSD.
He was out of the band by 1968, no longer able to cope with the pressures of fame and
creating music while also managing a purported diagnosis of schizophrenia.
In June 1975, Pink Floyd was deep into the recording sessions for its ninth studio album,
Wish You Were Here.
It featured the epic "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," which was written as a tribute to Barrett,
who faded into obscurity and private life in the early '70s.
One day, while the band was in the studio, an interesting character showed up uninvited
to a mixing session.
Nobody in the band could identify this quiet, confused, heavyset guy with a shaved head
and no eyebrows.
David Gilmour was the first to figure out that the mysterious man was Barrett.
Then, he slipped out without telling anyone.
That would mark the last time the core five members of Pink Floyd would ever occupy the
While Barrett appeared somewhat unhealthy and troubled to other members of Pink Floyd
during his drop-in on a Wish You Were Here mixing session in 1975, he quietly soldiered
on, privately, for more than 30 years, taking up gardening and painting.
Amid reports that his health had improved in the early 2000s, Barrett passed away in
Cambridge in July 2006 at the age of 60.
While initial reports suggested complications from diabetes as the cause of death, the musician
actually passed away from the effects of pancreatic cancer.
"There was something slightly not quite with us about Syd that really appealed to me strongly.
There was a Peter Pan quality about him."
The Wall is one of the most iconic albums in rock history.
The 1979 double-LP by Pink Floyd is the sixth-best-selling album in US history, ranks among Rolling Stone's
top 100 records ever made, and was even adapted into a film, the trippy 1982 cult classic
Pink Floyd: The Wall.
It's a harrowing movie about a rock star named Pink who falls into the twin voids of solitude
and mental illness.
Unfortunately, the film is partly autobiographical.
Pink is based on both Syd Barrett and Roger Waters, who wrote the vast majority of the
album by himself.
Barrett battled mental health issues, just like Pink, whose problems begin when his father
dies in a war.
Similarly, Waters' dad died in World War II.
Those are the first bricks in the metaphorical wall Pink builds up around himself.
It's followed by various other traumas, including abusive schoolteachers, highlighted on the
famous standout track "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)."
As Water explained in an interview with Mojo,
"The song is meant to be a rebellion against errant government, against people who have
power over you, who are wrong."
The love life of Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright proved as dramatic and chaotic as the
man's keyboard work.
In 1964, he married Juliette Gale, a singer from an early incarnation of Pink Floyd.
They had two children together, only for him to leave her in 1982 for the future Franka
Wright, who was also married at the time.
Franka noted in interviews that her husband frequently cheated on her with groupies and
backup singers, but she couldn't let him get away with one final indiscretion.
She surprised him on his boat in Athens one day in 1992, where Wright was accompanied
by his young mistress, who was also pregnant.
That was especially tough for Franka Wright, as she'd suffered through four unsuccessful
After a contentious divorce, Wright moved on to this third wife, the former Millie Hobbs.
Wright and Hobbs married in 1995 and separated in 2007.
Pink Floyd would've been nothing if not for Richard Wright.
On every Pink Floyd album except for The Final Cut, Richard Wright provided the soaring,
haunting, spacey keyboard sounds that were the backbone of the band.
He also sang backup on countless Floyd tunes and occasionally penned something, notably
co-writing the sweeping "The Great Gig in Sky" on The Dark Side of the Moon.
His work in Pink Floyd ended with a whimper as well as a bang.
By 1996, Wright hadn't spoken with bandmate Roger Waters in 14 years, although the band
did reunite, minus Syd Barret, for a one-off performance at the Live 8 London charity concert
Just three years later, Wright died of cancer, according to his publicist.
He was 65 years old.
Despite being one of the driving forces behind Pink Floyd, bassist Roger Waters harbored
a great deal of anger and hostility towards his bandmates.
First, he was angry that keyboardist Richard Wright didn't write enough material during
the recording of The Wall, and subsequently managed to fire him.
Wright played on the tour in support of The Wall as a hired backing musician.
Creative tensions between Waters and David Gilmour boiled over during the recording of
The Final Cut, and Waters quit the band, telling the public that Pink Floyd was over without
The rest of the band disagreed, and Waters sued – unsuccessfully — to prevent them
from using the Pink Floyd name.
"And obviously there is no band -- it's me!"
The band continued to record and tour to much success into the '90s and was inducted into
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Waters didn't attend.
In 2013, he expressed regret for the mid-'80s lawsuit, telling the BBC he was in the wrong
for doing it.
Pink Floyd's David Gilmour is one of the world's most famous, successful, and talented guitarists,
so he treasures his instrument greatly.
That's why it was so awful when a bunch of his guitars were stolen right out from underneath
Gilmour told the story on The David Gilmour Podcast miniseries in 2019.
Gilmour revealed that he had many of his guitars in a studio he owned which was located in
He went on to say,
"My brother had a band; he was in [the studio] working, rehearsing with his band quite a
bit [...] One night, it got broken into and the guitars went, and it turned out to be
one of the musicians who were in my brother's band at the time."
One of those guitars wound up in a studio owned by a Gilmour associate, who recognized
the instrument and returned it.
Gilmour also revealed that despite getting most of the guitars back, a few remained gone
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