Pink Floyd boasted a lineup of exceptionally talented and influential musicians. The original members included Syd Barrett, the band’s visionary founder; Roger Waters, the primary songwriter and conceptual force; David Gilmour, the virtuoso guitarist and vocalist; Richard Wright, the keyboardist, and Nick Mason, the skilled drummer. But what were the early lives of the band members like? How did their upbringings shape their musical careers and personalities?
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Roger Waters was born on 6 September 1943 in Great Bookham, Surrey. His father, Eric Fletcher Waters, was a schoolteacher and a pacifist who joined the British Army as a conscientious objector during World War II. He was killed in action in Italy in 1944, when Roger was only five months old. Roger never met his father and grew up with his mother, Mary Whyte Waters, who was also a schoolteacher and a socialist activist. Roger attended the Cambridgeshire High School for Boys, where he met future bandmates Syd Barrett and David Gilmour. He was interested in music from an early age and learned to play the guitar and the bass. He also developed a rebellious and anti-authoritarian attitude, which would later influence his lyrics and themes.
David Gilmour was born on 6 March 1946 in Cambridge, England. His father, Douglas Gilmour, was a senior lecturer in zoology at the University of Cambridge and an expert on animal behaviour. His mother, Sylvia Wilson Gilmour, was a teacher and a film editor. David grew up in a comfortable and intellectual environment, surrounded by books and music. He attended The Perse School in Cambridge, where he became friends with Syd Barrett. He also learned to play the guitar and formed several bands with his classmates. He left school at 17 and travelled around Europe with his guitar, busking and performing in various venues.
Richard Wright was born on 28 July 1943 in Hatch End, Middlesex. His father, Cedric Wright, was a biochemist and a head of research at Unilever. His mother, Bridie Wright, was a milliner. Richard had a privileged and stable upbringing, living in a large house with servants and attending private schools. He studied classical piano from an early age and later switched to jazz and rock. He attended the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Elstree, where he met future bandmate Nick Mason. He then enrolled at the Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) to study architecture, where he met Roger Waters.
Nick Mason was born on 27 January 1944 in Edgbaston, Birmingham. His father, Bill Mason, was a documentary filmmaker and a racing driver. His mother, Sally Mason, was a musician and an artist. Nick had an adventurous and creative childhood, travelling with his parents to various locations for their work and hobbies. He attended Frensham Heights School in Surrey, where he developed an interest in music and cars. He then joined the Regent Street Polytechnic to study architecture, where he met Richard Wright and Roger Waters. He became the drummer of their band and also contributed to the production and engineering of their albums.
Syd Barrett was born on 6 January 1946 in Cambridge, England. His father, Arthur Max Barrett, was a prominent pathologist and a professor at the University of Cambridge. His mother, Winifred Barrett, was a homemaker and a music lover. Syd had a happy and artistic childhood, living in a large Victorian house with his four siblings. He was exposed to various genres of music by his parents and his older brother Alan, who played the piano and the banjo. He attended The Perse School in Cambridge, where he met David Gilmour and became interested in art and literature. He learned to play the guitar and formed several bands with his friends. He also attended the Camberwell College of Arts in London for a year before dropping out to pursue music full-time.